I can’t believe that it has already been a month since my son, Miles, returned to school. Like most parents, I was met with unusual challenges, a lot of anxiety, and thoughts of whether I was doing the right thing.
I also wondered if Miles would experience a bit of separation anxiety because of our months of togetherness, but he persevered and has been fine. I know this isn’t the reality for some children, as leaving their safe havens can be challenging — especially because of the large amount of time spent at home during the pandemic.
I’ve had the opportunity to have candid conversations with Miles around his thoughts and feelings about returning to school. He shared with me that he has been happy to see his friends. He says the downside of the school year is that he must play in “zones.” This means that he can only interact with children in his class to reduce the chance of COVID-19 spread. Instead of feeding into these complaints, I have assured Miles that it’s all for his safety.
As a parent, the reality is that COVID-19 is a real risk and that in-person school may be suspended if it leads to outbreaks. I still fear that we could get knee-deep into the school year and then be back at home. Parents have a complicated mission dealing with this uncertainty. I have tried my best to keep Miles encouraged and to prepare him for changes just in case. Since last month, I have found a few ways to keep both of us encouraged.
Allow him to express himself
When Miles gets in the car each day from car pool, I always ask him how his day was. I leave the space open for anything positive or negative that happened during the day. It is important that I stay calm and positive. If Miles expresses something negative, I allow him to speak, and we unpack what exactly happened. I try not to entertain it too much but to help him think through whatever issue he is having.
Keep my expectations clear
One of the best things about Miles returning to school is that he gets some sense of independence. While Miles is still adjusting, I have found it helpful to be clear about a new set of expectations from when he was at home. I expect for him to listen to his teachers, follow instructions, and stay on task.
As I stated before, I always ask Miles about his day. If Miles tells me that he had a good day, I ask, “What made it good day?” This helps me further access what he is feeling. When he shares something positive about school, I try to affirm him in his feelings and reassure him that getting an education and going to school is an amazing thing.
Overall, this first month has been such a great experience. Going to school in-person has been proven to be beneficial to him in so many ways. He has created a better connection with his peers, experienced a stronger academic environment, and shifted his overall attitude towards school in a positive direction. I am so happy that we made the decision to send him back.