Returning to school after virtual learning may cause a wide range of emotions for many children and parents. The emotions can range from fear to excitement.
"There are many benefits of in-person school for children, but the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted students' routines. This can cause anxiety about going back, especially for students returning from virtual learning," says Kelly Ihejiawu, Director of Library and School Services at Children's Health℠. "Each family will find their new normal and ways to provide a consistent routine to support children as they return to the classroom."
Ihejiawu and the School Services team at Children's Health answer some frequently asked questions to help your child return to school with limited disruption.
What should I do if my child does not want to go back to school?
It's normal for children to feel anxious about the new school year. Uncertainty and change can be challenging for children who strive on structure and routine. If your child is struggling with returning to in-person learning, you can support them in the following ways:
- Help your child name the emotion they are feeling (e.g., "I hear that you're feeling worried/sad/scared about going back to school.")
- Talk to your child about what the emotion is associated with. For example, are they feeling worried about not being able to make friends? Are they sad because they like being at home with their family? Are they scared about being around classmates during COVID-19?
- Walk your child through this emotion by reassuring them that it is normal and helping them plan for the situation.
If you are concerned that your child is unable to work through their emotions, you should talk to their pediatrician to determine if they need professional support. See more tips to support mental health in children.
How can I help my child return to the classroom?
Help your child prepare for in-person learning by providing structure and support.
- At least two weeks before school, start their morning and bedtime routine. Consistency can help children feel secure and confident. For older children, have them help you create their schedule based on activities they will be participating in.
- If your child has not been wearing a mask but will wear one in a classroom, have them practice wearing a mask for family outings or around the house for extended amount of time. See other ways to help children adjust to wearing a mask.
- Create a space for your child to focus on homework. Have fun with this and allow your child to participate in creating a space that they will enjoy.
- Schedule some family time to go over schedules and ensure your child understands any new routines due to school. This may include certain chores your child will need to do, or tasks they will need to do to get themselves ready for the school day.
As your child attends school, continue to check-in and ask how they're feeling. It may take some time to adjust. Being there for your child and listening is an important way to show you care.
Can my child receive homebound instruction if I do not want them to go to school?
School districts provide homebound services to children who qualify due to a chronic illness or medical condition that does not allow them to leave home. The condition can be temporary such as a broken hip or leg, or chronic, such as an illness or disorder where your child is unable to fight minor infections. If your child is unable to attend school due to a health concern, speak with their school to get the correct paperwork and give it to your doctor to fill out. Your child must need these services for at least four weeks to qualify.
Homebound services are different than virtual learning and are only available to children who medically qualify. Many school districts are only offering in-person instruction this year, but some districts may offer temporary virtual learning options for children who are eligible, such as younger children who are not yet able to get vaccinated. Check with your child's school district to learn more.
What should I do if I am concerned about my child's safety at school?
It's important to become familiar with your school's safety practices and ways you can keep your child healthy during COVID-19. If you have questions or concerns about your school's safety practices, you can:
- Review your child's school website. Many answers to your questions can be found there.
- Speak with your child's teacher, school nurse or principal.
- Talk to your child about how you would like them to stay safe at school.
See eight ways to help keep your child healthy as they return to the classroom.
What should I do if my family has experienced a loss during COVID-19?
All schools have programs to support families. If your family experienced the loss of a family member, job or housing, or if you experienced other challenges, contact your child's school counselor or social worker. They can help support your child in the transition back to school. If additional support is needed, they can help provide that in the school environment.
For more resources, see our guidance for families returning to school during COVID-19. If you have additional questions, please reach out to your child's doctor or their school team.
The School Services department at Children's Health supports students in balancing their medical and educational needs by creating school plans for patients with extended hospitalizations and individualized school recommendations for patients when they are discharged. Learn more about our school and education resources.
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