I know what you’re thinking. Change? Again?
A little more than a year ago, each of us made life-altering adjustments to our families’ everyday lives. Many began working from home while simultaneously overseeing their students’ virtual learning. Work and home dynamics shifted, but as we all knew it eventually would, they are beginning to shift back. School districts are returning to in-class learning and families across the country are getting ready to pivot back to a way of life that looks something like what we’re used to but with a twist.
This everchanging “new normal”, as it has come to be known, is shaped by our new understandings of public and mental health, community, inclusion, accessibility, and our collective goal to keep one another safe. If you had told me a year ago that the COVID-19 pandemic would affect the way we live, work, learn, and have fun for nearly two years, I would have not believed it. If you had told me that I’d become accustomed to living a modified life because of it, I’d be even more surprised. Unfortunately for us, few things in life are as simple as relearning how to ride a bike. Sometimes, we must even work together to get back to the basics.
As I think of the children who have returned to school and all those awaiting their first day, I think of my niece who I had the pleasure of helping get acclimated to virtual learning in March 2020. She, like millions of other children, are preparing for yet another major change in how she learns, socializes, and ultimately, develops. Like the adage says, “It takes a village …” So as a proud member of your community, I want to share with you some ways you can support the young ones in your home and community transition smoothly to in-class learning.
- Have “the talk”. Talk with your school-age children about COVID-19 and the Delta variant, its signs, symptoms, prevention, and risks. Remind them of the importance of protecting themselves and others by washing their hands frequently, always wearing a mask indoors, and maintaining three to six feet of distance from others.
- Reevaluate your routines. The return to in-person learning is only one of many returns to normalcy we are beginning to see. Remote employees are returning to their offices, community sports are resuming, and public events are regaining popularity. There is more to do than there was during quarantine, so we each must be intentional about making time for what is important. Be sure to make the necessary changes to your and your family’s schedules to allow for quality time, exercise and meditation, homework and personal development, a social life and to be present in the moments that matter most to one another.
- Have a heart to heart. Ask your children, whether they are going to kindergarten or moving on campus for their first year of college, how they feel about this change. Are they anxious? Are they scared? Excited? Hopeless? Hopeful? What do they need during this transition? Create space for trust and transparency with your child and have them identify other members of their support system they can call. Be aware of the signs of anxiety or depression associated with the new school year and stay up-to-date on local resources that can help your family adjust.
- Show understanding. As you and your young learners transition to life inside the school building, try a little tenderness and grace. Remind yourself, your children, and their support systems are all facing unprecedented changes. You and your child will learn what works and doesn’t work as you go along and adjust accordingly.
- Set new goals. Encourage your learner to set academic, personal, social, extracurricular, and for older children, professional goals. Goal-setting is the first step in intentional living and can provide structure that is just as important to your child’s success as your daily routine. While we are all recreating ourselves for the post-COVID world (that we’re not out of yet), we can support youth in doing the same by setting new intentions with all the insight they have gained over the past year.