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Returning to school in the fall will not look like it did a year ago. As many school districts begin to release their plans for reopening, deep concern regarding the mental health of children affected by online learning has surfaced. What can we do as parents to support our child’s mental health if they return to school? If it stays online? 

Returning to School Online…. 

If your child’s schooling remains online into the fall, focusing on their emotional well-being will be key. Prolonged social isolation can be traumatic to your child’s social emotional development. Prioritizing healthy social interactions and fostering positive emotional expression will help your child remain resilient.  

Daily Check Ins 

Daily changes and uncertainty outside of the home can bring instability within the home. As we learn to adapt to the uncertainty of this year, prioritize your child’s mental health by checking in on their thoughts and feelings daily. Ask your child to tell you how they feel each day or play a game that prompts your child to share their high and low for the day. By sharing emotions, you provide your child with an outlet to express their concerns, worries, joys, and excitements in a safe supportive environment.  

Socially Distanced Interactions 

Remote learning inherently lacks the peer interaction children need to thrive. As much as possible, create opportunities for your child to safely interact with others. FaceTime a classmate, drive by a friend’s house, play virtual games with relatives and peers, and make time for family fun.  

Showing Grace 

As your child adapts to remote learning, be patient and empathetic towards their frustrations. Express grace towards emotional outbursts and a lack of motivation. Understand that this transition is hard on you and your child, and that taking breaks to relieve your child’s stress is essential to navigating the world of virtual learning.  

Before Returning to School in Person…. 

If your child’s school district decides to return to in person instruction, whether its in full or through a hybrid platform, make sure your child is prepared for the changes they might see. Knowing what to expect and having practiced new health conscience habits will help ease your child’s anxieties and fears.  

Hand Washing 

Practice healthy hand washing with your child at home. Sing songs, count numbers, or cite poems that exhibit how long your little ones should scrub. Use different soaps, shaving creams, or hand sanitizers to show your little one the fun in staying clean. Developing healthy habits helps ensure your child’s safety while promoting their sense of agency in fighting the spread of germs.  

Social Distancing 

Begin teaching your child to be aware of the physical distance between themselves and others. Find creative ways for your child to interact with friends while staying six feet apart. Making social distancing fun brings normalcy to our new way of interacting and prepares your child to safely maintain valuable social engagementEncourage your family to find creative ways to express physical affection. For example, instead of hugging a friend or relative, invent a new dance move or pose that shows excitement and love.  

Wearing Masks 

Prepare your child for mask wearing by incorporating it into your normal routine and leading by example. “Are we going outside today? Let’s make sure to grab our masks when we put on our shoes!”. Have your child pick out a mask they like, choosing fun fabric patterns or colors. Remind your children that superheroes wear masks too, and that by wearing their mask they are helping to keep everyone around them safe and healthy.  

Remember, you are your child’s biggest role model. Regardless of what form your child’s schooling occurs in, lead by example in supporting your child’s mental health. For more information on welcoming the new school year, check out last week’s blog post here.

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