Supporting Your Child Through School Re-Opening
The world is slowly looking at how to safely reopen schools, but it isn’t just up to the health experts and school administrators. Parents should also do their parts in ensuring their kids enter or go back to school, armed with the right physical, mental, and psychological preparations.
Through a pilot run, thousands of children were finally allowed to return to school in Metro Manila last month – almost two years since this all began. Since then, the Department of Education has expressed high hopes that the transition to limited face-to-face classes in the next school year for all schools in the Philippines will run smoothly.
This is good news as continued school closures may be harmful in the long run. For example, in a survey conducted by UNICEF & SWS last May, a large percent of parents observed that children were learning a lot less in distance learning than in traditional in-person learning. The lack of opportunity for immediate face to face teacher-student interactions also contributes to delays in the development of certain competencies in children and impacts quality of learning. Distance learning also takes away the “umbrella of safety” that school provides and may exacerbate the situations of children living in poverty, abuse, or violence (UNICEF, 2021).
How Can I Support My Child Through School Re-Opening?
The first days back at school can be an especially difficult time for children. Going back to in-person learning after months of learning from home is a whole other thing. One issue, especially for younger kids, is separation anxiety as many children have been used to having their parent or caregiver by their side for the past few months. Your child may also be anxious and frightened of the changes they’ll go through once they are back at school or that they still may not be safe. Whatever the reason, here are some tips to help him or her adjust:
1) Have an open conversation with them regarding school re-openings. Take the time to orient them about the kinds of changes they are to expect and listen wholeheartedly to any worries or fears they may have. Gently ask them, “How do you feel about going back to school?” For younger children, you may need to use visual aids or toys to explain things or get them to open up. Do not brush their emotions off and let them know that it is natural to have many feelings regarding this matter. If they have any significant concerns, make sure to talk to their teacher about it beforehand.
2) Some tips on separation anxiety. Transitioning from learning from home and in-person schooling (or even hybrid learning) is a process that takes some preparation and planning. As this may be the first time parents and children will be spending time apart since the start of the pandemic, some separation anxiety may be expected. Here are some tips to manage this kind of situation.
- Kids pick up behaviors they see from adults. If you can model a calm demeanor, it might help them feel more relaxed.
- To make goodbyes less difficult:
- Clearly announce that you are leaving.
- Explain where you are headed and the exact time you will be back to pick them up. Keep it short and brief.
- Do not hesitate or linger when leaving.
3) Reiterate the importance of following through with safety guidelines. Young children may feel fussy about the following safety measures that will be in place once school starts such as mask-wearing, hand-washing, and physical distancing. Let them understand that germs may still exist even though they’re invisible, so it is important to do these measures repeatedly. Remind your children that we all have the responsibility to follow these measures to take care of one another, especially vulnerable members of society such as the elderly and immunocompromised. Make mask-wearing and hand washing fun through song or dance! Children are likely to continue to do these measures when you’ve talked to them thoroughly about it and if you make them enjoyable.
4) Lastly, gently check in regularly to see how your child is coping. Regularly check in on your child’s physical health once they’ve returned to school. Monitor their temperature and watch out for any unusual or worrying symptoms. Also keep your eye out for any signs of stress and anxiety such as moodiness, aggression, or withdrawal from family and friends. Engage them in conversation by asking, “How are you doing in school?”. Let them know that it’s perfectly okay to be overwhelmed about the changes they are seeing and going through. Communicating empathy and understanding will go a long way.
Although going back to in-person schooling may seem daunting, it is an important and necessary step to support this current generation’s learning, growth, and development. With the tips above, we can still prioritize the physical and psychological safety of our kids throughout this entire ordeal. On top of that, as responsible members of society, we should remain vigilant of the ever-changing scientific data and safety precautions. When in doubt, to best help support you and your child, consult a trusted pediatrician.
• Insights for Education (2020). COVID-19 and Schools: What We Can Learn from Six Months of Closures and Reopening. https://blobby.wsimg.com/go/104fc727-3bad-4ff5-944f-c281d3ceda7f/20201001_Covid19%20and%20Schools%20Six%20Month%20Report.pdf
• UNICEF (2021). Reopening schools safely in the Philippines. https://www.unicef.org/philippines/reopening-schools-safely
About The Expert
DR. JOSELYN EUSEBIO, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician
Dr. Joselyn C. Alonzo-Eusebio is a graduate of Doctor of Medicine from the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center. She had her Pediatric Residency Training in the same institution, after which, she pursued a fellowship in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at UP-PGH. She had had further trainings in Developmental Pediatrics abroad (US and UK).
Dr. Eusebio is involved both in teaching and in clinical practice. For the academe, she’s currently an Associate Professor of the College of Medicine of UERMMMC, and Clinical Instructor at the New Era College of Medicine and St Luke’s College of Medicine. Dr. Eusebio holds various positions including the following: Chairman, Department of Pediatrics, UERMMMC; Head, Section of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at National Children’s Hospital; Vice-President, Philippine Pediatric Society and the Perinatal Association of the Philippines.
She’s a much sought-after speaker in conferences, scientific symposia, lay fora, here and abroad, both in platforms and in media, most especially on the topic of child development and behavior.
Adapted from Sibling Relationships (Copyright © 2007American Academy of Pediatrics,Updated3/2007) Last Updated 4/10/2019
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.