child afraid of returning to schoolCOVID-19 has changed the ways we go about our lives. While adults navigate managing their “new normal” while waiting to see what this means on a seemingly ever-changing basis, children can feel especially vulnerable during this time, as communities mull their return to school.

Returning to school can cause many children anxiety even during normal times. But COVID-19 will inevitably add additional stress and fear on a wider basis. Here are some practical ways to help your child work out their feelings on returning to school during COVID-19.

  • Talk to your child openly about their worries, reassuring him/her that it is perfectly normal to feel anxious. Go over the safety measures in place at their school to help keep everyone as safe as possible.

  • Encourage them to remember to use PPE if required, to wash their hands thoroughly with soap, and to sneeze or cough into their elbow. If there are hand sanitizing stations available, encourage them to use these upon entering and leaving each room.

  • Help your child by helping them focus on the positives of returning to school to see their teachers and friends, and learning. Remind them that it might be hard to be physically distanced all the time, but to be sure and follow the rules set in place. Encourage them to find ways to be connected to their friends safely, for example, by conducting live video chats when appropriate.

  • Help your child understand that the wearing of a protective mask, however inconvenient or frustrating it can be at times, is done to help people in your community that may be prone to easily falling sick, so it’s important that we do our best to help them stay healthy.

  • Encourage your child to tell you at any time if they feel sick in any way.

  • Promote ways to balance screen time with quality time outside getting fresh air, sunlight, and exercise.

  • Realize that children often feel and mimic the emotional cues they see and feel from the important adults in their lives, so it’s important these key adults proactively manage their emotions especially while around children, stay calm, listen to the child’s worries and concerns, speak kindly and with empathy and understanding to help reassure them.

  • Even during normal times, physical and cyber-bullying occur. With COVID-19, tensions may run high due to prejudices learned and ingrained from misinformation. Explain that The Coronavirus has nothing to do with how someone looks, where they come from, or how they speak. If your child has been bullied or is witnessing someone being bullied, encourage them to let a trusted adult know this is happening. If they are worried that they may be seen as a “tattletale”, remind them that everyone deserves to feel safe, that bullying is always wrong, and the greater good of providing and receiving support and kindness is always the best choice.