Reopening of Schools Does Not Change our Responsibility as Parents

Whatever your perspective may be on whether our schools should have reopened or not during the current pandemic, the province has made their decision and our children are back in class. Although what the classrooms and schools across the province look like may vary between divisions and stage of schooling, our children young and old are back in school. We as parents continue to have a responsibility to do our job and ensure our children are safe, responsible, respectful, and motivated to fulfill their role of completing their school work. It has come to my attention that the levels of Anxiety with returning to school have been high, but not all of that needs to be worrisome. Many of the students I have been working with have been anxiously awaiting the day they can return to school, resume routine, and regain the skills and lessons needed to continue with their goals of academic success. Most of the students I have worked with at the end of Summer and early Fall indicated that they were excited to return to the classroom even though some of their classes were in person while others were online. Regardless of the age of your children and the stage of their schooling, our role as parents remains vital in the process.

It is important that we are able to trust our schools, their staff, and administration that they are doing their best to keep out students safe when they are at school; ensuring proper social distancing, maintaining ongoing sanitization procedures, and that every student is respecting one another. Thus, it is crucial that as parents, we are reminding our children to be respectful of school rules, even though they are still getting used to the new protocols in place. One way to mitigate some of the symptoms related to Anxiety, is to help our students feel a sense of consistency. As long as we continue to reinforce the fact that school will look different than before for the foreseeable future, that does not eliminate the main reason the students are there - to learn and enhance their education. Ensuring that we as parents routinely reiterate the main purpose of why they are in school, it can help the children focus on that main goal instead of hyper focusing on the unknown.

At home, it will be important that you share with your children at the beginning of each week or each day one goal that they want to achieve when going to school and that may vary between accomplishing a certain tasks in art class, Math class, gym, or a chemistry lab or how they manage their time. Focusing on their academic goals will be essential and can decrease the extensive focus they may be placing on the pandemic. Then revisiting their goal with them at the end of the day or end of the week to ensure they are reaching their goals. If they are not achieving the goal(s) set out, reworking their goals so they can accomplish them will be important. Even if you have students at home who are doing part time online learning or fulltime online learning that does not mean parents can take a passive role in the process. As parents, the continued support and ensuring that we are following up routinely with our children will be essential instead of assuming they are accomplishing everything they need to on their own. We want to build and maintain trust with our children (especially teenagers in older grades); empowering them to do their work independently and openly communicate any struggles they may be having. Establishing a consistent communication / check-in system with your children will be essential because the likelihood of the current version of school continuing for a long period of time appears very likely. It can also be helpful if as parents we check-in with the teachers as needed but make sure your children know you are doing that so you do not impair any established trust.

Finally, as the flu season is upon us, many students will start to experience symptoms that are very similar to those of COVID-19. There are very clear protocols in place if your child becomes symptomatic with the flu, but if they know of other students that are showing symptoms we want to be careful with how we teach our children about respecting others without ostracizing them because of symptoms they do not create themselves. Students may have in fact been doing everything they could to prevent these symptoms, but flu season is what it is and discriminating against others due to health concerns they cannot control can have a negative impact on anyone and the classroom morale. Educating our children on how to respond maturely, respectfully, compassionately and with empathy will be important in fostering a psychologically healthy school environment. As the many slogans on windows, signs, and billboards have reiterated the message that we are all in this together, the message is clear, the more responsible we can be the less time we will be in this together, but that does not negate our responsibility to ensure a top priority with our students back in class. As we move through the Fall, it will be most helpful to remember the necessity and role we have to further their education and enhance their growth and learning along the way, regardless of the unknown that continues to evolve.


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