September 2, 2020
Parenting Corner: Mentally equipping your child for a new educational experience.
As summer turns to fall, parents are preparing their children and teens for the new school year amid a pandemic. We discuss preparing your child for the new Coronavirus education experience.
Parents can support younger children in the following ways:
- Talk about why it’s important to wear a mask and not touch it. Share that masks protect oneself and others from germs that can make a person sick. Give a visual demonstration by blowing a piece of balled up paper across the floor, then try doing that with a mask. Children can see that our breath can’t travel very far with a mask, making it much harder to spread germs.
- Teach children to cough and sneeze into their elbow.
- Make frequent hand washing a part of their daily routine, washing for at least 20 seconds. Sing“Happy Birthday” or “Itsy Bitsy Spider” as a good timer.
- Be a good role model. Practice safe health measures yourself in a positive, upbeat manner.
- If your child’s school is using distance learning, involve your child in a discussion of what worked last spring and what didn’t. What ideas can you come up with together so school work gets done? A child is more likely to try a solution they’ve helped develop.
- Let them know what will be different at school this year. For example, parents probably will not be able to walk into the building with their child. Knowing what to expect on the first day helps a child feel confident and prepared. It’s important to stay informed about your school’s procedures so you can communicate that information to your child.
- When it comes to social distancing, validate their feelings and empathize that while it’s hard to stay away from friends, it’s an important way to keep both them and their friends safe.
- Remind them to wave to friends instead of hugging. Help them practice visualizing a “bubble” around their bodies and keep it from popping by avoiding contact with someone else’s bubble.
- When talking about school in a pandemic, be mindful of your own anxieties. Ask your child what they know about COVID-19. (Here’s Nola Family’s earlier article on the subject.)
- Give your child the opportunity to ask questions, and talk about how they feel and what their concerns are. Remember that they take their cues from you. Reassure them that we are keeping them safe by washing hands, keeping distance, and wearing masks.
- Limit children’s exposure to media coverage of the virus. The constant drumbeat of frightening news is not good for anyone’s mental health, especially children.
For older children and teens:
- They will have heard more about COVID-19 and will probably have more questions and specific concerns. Be open and honest, provide accurate information from resources including the CDC’s website and American Academy of Pediatrics’ website.
- Discuss which social media sources of information are reliable and which are not. Be comfortable telling them “I don’t know.” And then look for answers together.
- Be a good listener and validate your teen’s feelings about social restrictions and current uncertainties. A sense of loss and frustration is understandable.
- Adolescents are driven to be with peers and may test rules about interactions. Discussion and negotiation may help a teen be more inclined to follow what’s non-negotiable to you.
Finally, be patient with both your child and yourself as you move forward this year. Families are in uncharted territory during this pandemic. Think about what you would like your child to remember about this time many years from now and how you worked together and grew stronger as a family.
Lisa Phillips, MSW, LMSW, and Monet Somerville, MS, both are parent educators at The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans and contributors to the award-winning “Parenting Corner” column. They can be reached at 504.896.9591. More information and events can be found here.