Preschool in a Pandemic: How to Help the Children Cope
The coronavirus pandemic has changed life as we know it. There are masked strangers and temperature checks everywhere. People are just trying to make it through the day– six feet away from each other.
Many industries are affected by the pandemic, and some had to close temporarily, including child care centers and preschools. However, these establishments are starting to reopen their doors.
Needless to say, the first day at the daycare center or in preschool will look a lot different this year. It may leave parents and guardians anxious, and it may be difficult for children to adjust.
Changes in Preschool and Child Care Center Protocols
The discomfort and concern parents and guardians feel about their children is understandable considering how easily COVID-19 spreads. Around 9% of the overall coronavirus cases in the US are minors.
Although some of these children only show mild symptoms or no symptoms at all– more severe illnesses are not unheard of this pandemic. That said, sending kids back to school sounds like a risky decision.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already released recommendations and new safety measure guides to keep children, parents, and staff safe amid the pandemic.
Safety measure protocols include the following:
- Reducing class sizes
- Enhancing cleaning protocols
- Conducting temperature checks for children every morning
- Requiring everyone to wear face masks
- Managing drop-off and pickup times
- Keeping study desks and nap mats 6 feet apart
You can find the complete list on the CDC website.
Things to Do to Help the Children Adjust
Kids are more resilient than adults give them credit for– they just need an environment that helps them cope with all of the changes in their everyday life.
Children who are going back to preschool or child care centers will encounter strangers wearing masks, temperature checks at every entrance, and other children playing six feet apart. This experience may not sit well with them if they are not prepared.
Here are some things that you can do at home to help ease them into the new normal:
Your child probably remembers school or the child care center differently. Changes may come to them as a shock. You should help them understand these changes and manage their expectations before school starts.
You can set their expectations by describing their school or what their classroom will look like. You can also explain why everyone needs to wear a mask and why they should wear one too.
Practice at home.
Social distancing and proper handwashing have become essential practices amid the pandemic. Helping your child understand why they need to do these things and practicing at home will help them adjust once they go to school.
Create a Goodbye Ritual.
As mentioned previously, schools need to follow guidelines set by the CDC to ensure the safety of parents, children, and staff. One of these things may include dropping off children at the entrance of the building instead of the classroom.
Children may find it difficult to let go of their parents especially on the first day of school. Creating a goodbye ritual that calms them down or makes them laugh will make the process easier. It can be as simple as a handshake or as silly as a little dance.
Prepare them for uncomfortable situations.
Your child may be well-prepared to go to school during this pandemic, but there may be other children who struggle to wear masks or observe social distancing. You need to prepare your child for uncomfortable situations like this.
Make sure that they understand who they should go to for help in the classroom. You can even roleplay scenarios at home to encourage your child to speak up about uncomfortable situations.
Celebrate the little moments.
Make sure that you acknowledge your child’s efforts at the end of the day. Reward them for little achievements like making it through the first day of school on their own.
The reward does not need to be something big, but it should be something they could appreciate.
Make sure that you stay connected with your child. Listen to them when they tell you about their day. Ask questions about what they learned and what they played.
The fact that people have to wear masks and stay six feet away from each other should not be the focus of your child’s daily life. Help them find joy in all their new experiences every day.
Prepare them for the sudden need to go virtual again.
In the past months, some schools opted to go for remote learning. Although schools are opening their doors once more, it is still possible that they have to revert to virtual learning due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus dynamics.
As a parent, check your emotional well-being as well.
The first day in preschool may be hard for kids but is hard for you too. Although there has always been some form of anxiety about children starting school, this feeling may now be magnified during the pandemic.
Make sure that you acknowledge your feelings and talk about your stresses with your friends or other parents. Look for a self-care measure that works best for you. You need to relax and recharge.
Your child looks up to you. The more stable you are, the more assured you can let your child feel that everything is going to be okay.
The better you take care of yourself, the better you can take care of your child.
First days at preschool, or school in general, is always hard for both parents and children in one way or another. However, it is more difficult now that we are in the middle of a pandemic.
Since schools are opening their doors to face-to-face classes, children will see and feel the changes COVID-19 has pushed upon the whole world.
You can help your child cope with these changes by emotionally and mentally preparing them for what they are about to experience. Also, help them feel safe by being there for them.