For many Quebec children, lockdown is coming to an end and the school bell has rung. How can we make this important transition as smooth as possible?
The health and safety of school-age children
As the prospect of going back to school is on the horizon, many parents have questions and concerns about the possible repercussions on their child. Given the continued risk of the spread of the virus, is it safe to return to school? This is a very legitimate question.
To date, studies indicate that COVID-19 affects children a lot less, and when they are infected, they are generally less ill (the majority have only mild symptoms). Additionally, the risk of transmission by a child to other children or to adults is lower. Fortunately, child mortality rates are minimal based on data collected in Canada and around the world.
In Quebec, the return to school will be done in stages, gradually and cautiously. This is a priority for both the authorities and for society as a whole. The decision to return to school remains a personal family choice based on various criteria such as the health of family members (chronic illness, serious immune deficiency, pregnancy or a person over the age of 60), the capacity for at-home learning, a child’s learning disabilities, and parents’ return to work.
Returning to school: a source of stress
It’s normal for children and parents to experience a certain degree of stress, as is the case when returning to school at the beginning of a school year. Although it will be a return to a familiar environment, it will be necessary to adapt to certain changes and new measures (often restrictive ones, to be honest). Moreover, certain factors can heap on additional stress:
- unknowns about the virus
- health issues for the child or family members
- changes to routine and performance (in the classroom, on the playground, at the childcare service, on the school bus, etc.)
The stress experienced in a situation as unique as the coronavirus pandemic largely depends on individual perceptions and particularities. If you want your child to cope well with the stress of returning to school, first it is essential that you manage it well!
Preparing your child for a smooth return to school
Here are a few valuable tips:
- Let your child know in advance that they will be returning to school, but not too much in advance (i.e., two days before). They must get used to the idea, without having to much time to anticipate or let their imagination spiral.
- Emphasize the positive aspects: seeing friends and teachers again, getting back into a routine, etc. Present the news as something positive.
- Show them that you are happy for them. Make it a point to show them the advantages for them and for you.
- Thank them or congratulate them for their attitude and behaviour during lockdown, if they were positive, of course!
- Prepare a special activity to celebrate the end of lockdown (i.e., their favourite meal).
- Explain as clearly as possible how things will work, what may have changed (i.e., that you will no longer be able to accompany them inside the school or that they may not be with all of their friends).
- Tell them that staff members may wear protective gear (i.e., a mask or glasses). For younger children, help them get used to seeing others wear a mask by doing a demonstration (perhaps on a stuffed animal or doll). You can also show them a picture on the Internet of what this might look like.
- Answer their questions by adapting your response to their age and level of understanding. Without concealing information, avoid superfluous information.
- Give them permission to feel sad. Leaving Mom and Dad’s side and lockdown can cause some short-lived sadness.
Obviously, it is pivotal that your child be familiar with COVID-19 preventive measures and that they apply them rigorously: handwashing, coughing in the crook of the arm, physical distancing, etc. For additional information, read the following.
We wish all families a happy... and safe return to school!