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Back-To-School Tips for Surviving the New Normal


Many of us thought that once September rolled around we would have more certainty regarding the state of the nation and the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the virus is still a number one news item and all our plans are still on hold.

Our kids, however, must be educated.

And so back to school, we go. Schools and colleges across the nation are re-opening in a variety of new scenarios. Some are re-opening in person with strict personal protection guidelines. Some have already re-opened, only to have quickly moved to distance learning a short time later. Many schools are opting for full-time distance learning until things start to get better.

Only one thing is for certain: We don’t yet know what the future holds.

All of this makes going back to school extremely difficult for children, parents, teachers, and school administrators. 

What can we do to make it all a little bit easier and more manageable for ourselves?

Here are 10 tips that should help us survive the upcoming school semester:

Manage Expectations.

We all had expectations about what Fall 2020 would be like. Now, most of those expectations have not been met. Managing our expectations in the face of uncertainty will be key in surviving the days ahead. Take some time to think about what you expect with regard to your children’s schooling. Are those expectations realistic in these times? If not, try to adjust those expectations and bring them in line with what might be more reasonable. When you feel disappointed with what the school day brings your way, reflect upon what expectations may have gone unmet and see what changes you can bring to your thinking for tomorrow.

Be patient.

Your children have a lot of adjustments to make no matter which model of schooling they will follow this fall. Whether they have to wear personal protective equipment to school or whether they have to manage their own school day from their home-based schoolroom, they will need guidance and grace as they manage this new season. Be patient with them if they don’t catch on quickly. None of us have experience with this type of schooling. Give them the time they need to adjust. Children are resilient but they need your patient support in order to excel.

Think outside the box.

Now is the time when our creative school-time juices have to flow. Our children will need us to help them think through how to manage their new way of doing school in fun and creative ways. Take this opportunity to try educational things you’ve never done before. Make learning fun. Take risks. Brainstorm ideas with your children. Allow them to be a part of the learning process. Now is the perfect time to try something different.

Let the kids have an opinion.

Schoolchildren will have a lot of emotional adjustment to do in this new season. Making that emotional adjustment a positive experience will be made a lot easier if the kids have some ownership in the process. One way to give them ownership is to allow them to express their opinion in the decisions regarding their education. Whether that means allowing them to choose between in-person or distance learning, or whether that means allowing them to set their own schedule while doing at-home learning, any opportunity for them to input into the decision-making process will make them feel valued.

Stay Active.

If you are a family that will be doing distance learning, make sure to schedule intentional time to take breaks, get outside, and stay active. Physical activity will make all of your indoor learning time in front of the computer screen more effective. Getting the body moving will make the brain more attentive. Children who attend school in person have the opportunity for a lot of movement during the day. Distance learners will need to add that into their day deliberately. It will pay great dividends.

Communicate proactively.

Communication with teachers and school administration will be perhaps the #1 most important thing parents can do to make the year as successful as possible. Have a question about your child’s assignments? Ask the teacher. Confused about the flow of the online lectures? Ask the teacher. Wondering about school activities and the health and safety of the student body? Contact a school administrator. Be kind and patient in your communication, but never be afraid to reach out. Be proactive rather than reactive. Speak your mind and get those questions answered.

Support groups.

You are not alone. Now is the time to reach out to others who are facing the same challenges that you are. Form a group of other parents of elementary age children. Got a senior in high school weighing all the college options? Find other parents just like you. There are so many common threads of concern and no one needs to tackle these issues on their own. Find others to talk to, whether online through video conferencing, or through safe, socially distanced meetings. 

Celebrate small victories.

We as a society are so used to big celebrations: weddings, graduations, the birth of a new child. In times like these, we need to find the good things in life to help us make it through the day. Seek out the small victories in the school day and help your child celebrate them. Did your child make it through the first week of school? Celebrate with a pizza! Did your child get out of bed without being prompted? Celebrate with a gold star. Whatever it takes to bring both motivation and happiness into the home during this challenging time, do it.

Stick to a schedule.

For those of us who will have distance learners at home, our sanity may rely on creating and sticking to a schedule for the school day. Rising at the same time every day during the week, finishing school work in a timely manner, breaking for lunch and for some outdoor time, and completing all the assignments by a certain time will help maintain good boundaries. Schedules create ways for the kids to know what is expected of them. Sure, there are times when we can be flexible, but maintaining a general schedule will be an important key to success.

Focus on the positive.

Perhaps more than any other tip, focusing on the positive will bring more success to you and to your student in these uncertain times. The world in general is filled with a lot of negativity. We, however, can be filled with points of light that can inspire our children to be their best, even when all else around them appears dark. Remind your children that you as a family will make it through this rough time and that we can help others who aren’t doing as well. We as a society can then move forward in positive and meaningful ways into the new normal, whenever that becomes a reality.

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