Are your kids heading back to the classroom for the new term? Or are you once again planning on distance learning in a bid to keep them safe from Covid-19?
If it’s the former, you’re not alone. Despite the dangers of the ongoing pandemic, more than 63 percent of parents in the emirate of Abu Dhabi voted to let children return to school in July 2020, when the virus was causing lockdowns all over the globe.
Fast forward a year and even more kids are expected to be back in front of teachers later this month, as opposed to taking lessons on a laptop via Zoom. And when they head through those school gates, social distancing will be considerably harder. They’ll be taking part in physical education, extra-curricular programs, and they’ll be allowed to eat with friends in the school canteen — all of which were banned or restricted previously.
“Many kids have not seen their friends physically over the last year,” says Sneha John, a clinical psychologist at Medcare Camali Mental Health Clinic. “So now some of them need to learn once again how to get back to talking to friends, and how to focus while in class and get into the rhythm of going to school as they did before.”
Over the past few weeks, John has discussed the topic numerous times with both adult and child patients, and most of them have the same concerns and reservations.
“When children were distance learning, the lack of social interaction took a toll on confidence and communication skills,” she adds. “Even simple things such as having a conversation. It’s something that’s coming up a lot in my sessions.”
But it’s not just our kids who suffered during home schooling. Many parents were overwhelmed when asked to learn new techniques and methods to teach their children. Juggling their jobs with trying to get their kids up to speed on a wide range of classes such as math, languages and science has been difficult and tiring.
So, the classroom will prove to be a change of scenery for both kids and parents later this month. But for some parents, it will bring new challenges and concerns — and a big one in particular will be wondering how their loved ones are adapting to being back in a more normal, traditional pre-virus environment.
“Parents are feeling apprehensive with the fact that its face-to-face learning,” she says. “Many of their kids have been removed for a lot of the year with online learning, so reintegrating into physical classrooms — as well as seeing the teachers — brings with it worry, especially in terms of how they will adjust.”
So, how can you prepare and support your kids as they return to the classroom in this era of masks, sanitization and strict rules on social interaction?
John believes there are four simple ways you can provide support to your kids.
- The first and most important, she says, is to get them into a proper routine before they start school. “This can be as simple as making sure they are going to bed on time and up early as if it was a normal school day. You can even go as far as visiting the school area to get them familiar with the building if it’s a new school for them. This will get them ready for what’s coming, and it won’t be such a shock on the first day.” Once school starts, she recommends having regular chats with your kids to keep tabs on how they are feeling. This should cover speaking to them about their worries, and any feelings that are new and unfamiliar. “A lot of the time the worry itself comes in the form of statements such as, ‘I don’t want to talk about school,'” she adds. “So, it’s important for parents to talk about it and the areas they might be worried about.”
- Next, you should try and get your little ones to focus on the things they can control, and the things that are going to stay the same. “So, for example, it would be good for parents and children to brainstorm the weekly timetable of learning,” says John. “If they know certain things will change less frequently, it is easier to manage, boosts confidence and makes it more comfortable as they continue through school.”
- Once you’ve worked on the areas they can control, she suggests you work on helping them let go of any worries that aren’t controllable. A way of doing this is through breathing exercises, where your child takes a huge breath in and lets it out like a they are blowing out a candle — this symbolizes that their worries are also being blown away. John encourages practicing breathing every day for a certain period, so your loved ones are able to let go and come to terms with things they cannot influence.
- Alongside this, parents can teach their children regular affirmations (such as “I will learn something new,” or “I will make new friends and I will discuss it with you when I get home”) that will help them see themselves in a positive light. “Helping them to see themselves with confidence is a great tool to give kids,” she concludes.
Kids going back to the classroom will have the chance to grow in a new environment, as well as develop their communication skills.
For parents letting them go — enjoy the extra time to yourselves in the knowledge you’ve given them the tools to make it a great year.
Asha Sherwood owns Abu Dhabi Review, an online and social platform that gives you the scoop on everything happening in the capital.