Since the closure of schools in March, many parents are concerned about keeping students on track and wondering what school will look like in the fall. While many of these questions have a variety of options from in-person instruction with advanced safety protocols to online learning, it is still a relatively fluid situation. All of these factors are certainly stressful for parents, but there are a few things you can do to help prepare yourself and your children for the upcoming school year.

“Every child returning to school in the fall had the same experience of an adjusted fourth quarter in the spring,” said Maureen Long, principal for Canopy Children’s Solutions’ CARES School Jackson. “Administrators and teachers are putting in extra time over the summer to find the best solutions for their students and families while looking at all the available options.”

If your child or you are anxious about falling behind, Long reminds us that all students experience an adjustment period when returning to school. Teachers work individually with students to assess where they need to target instruction to get the class on track. If there are academic areas where your child struggles most, see if you can find a tutor to improve those areas. Early intervention can help prevent greater challenges later on.

While some families’ concerns focus on their child’s academic progression, others are fearful of their child getting sick at school. Even with enhanced safety measures such as social distancing, limited group interactions, and heightened sanitizing and handwashing, there is no guarantee a child won’t contract a virus that can be transmitted to others. Carefully weigh the options for your family’s overall health risk and consult with your child’s pediatrician about the risk of returning to school under your district’s adopted safety guidelines. If returning to school, keep track of your emotional wellbeing as you don’t want your child to sense your fear and anxiety and become anxious himself.

“When I work with kids from our CARES School who are transitioning back to their local public school, we have to combat a lot of negative thinking and fears,” says Amy Hodgson, CARES Day School Lead Therapist with Canopy’s CARES School Hattiesburg. “Since there are so many unknowns right now, parents and students need to be vigilant in combatting “what if” thinking. Being informed of the facts and avoiding speculation will help you and your student to appropriately prepare and ward off unnecessary anxiety.”

Being prepared with accurate information is the first step in helping you and your child know what to expect from the new school year. Hodgson suggests that parents visit their school district’s website to view safety measures and updates. Practicing proper hygiene and talking about safety protocols with your child can help him or her feel empowered and more prepared for what to expect at school. Parents can also join social media groups that aim to provide a platform to ask questions, share information and offer support.

Getting your children into a normal routine also helps to combat stress. It helps students to re-acclimate to school faster if they learn to manage their day-to-day schedule. Be sure everyone is getting appropriate amounts of sleep and good nutrition to keep their minds and bodies healthy. If your children seem particularly tense, give your family a timeout to do self-care. Find an activity that is calming, such as going for a walk or playing a board game. Talk to your kids about how they are feeling and work together to identify things they can do to feel less anxious and more in control of their situation. They may also need someone outside of the home to help them process what they are feeling and experiencing, such as a therapist or counselor.

While no one knows exactly what the next school year holds, ensuring that your children feel prepared, safe and supported will give them the tools needed to be successful.

This article was featured in the August 2020 edition of Parents & Kids Magazine.

Click here to view video resources from Canopy that can help your family prepare for back-to-school.