With schools across Alberta set to resume shortly after months of being closed due to COVID-19, many children are expressing concerns and anxiety around returning. While the number of new infections is trending slightly upward in the province, parents, students and teachers may all be apprehensive about what kind of impact the start of the school year will have on those numbers.

If your child is returning to school in person this fall, your biggest concerns will be keeping them safe, and calming any fears they may have, whether related to COVID or not. Aside from pandemic concerns, students have been away from classrooms for longer than they ever have before since beginning kindergarten. This alone could be a reason for an increase in anxiety. Below, we provide tips for parents to help their children adjust to the new school year while keeping them physically safe.

COVID-19 Health Precautions in Alberta Schools

Wearing Masks

Perhaps the biggest change kids will face this year is the requirement for all children in grades 4-12 to wear masks when they cannot practice physical distancing (masks are optional for younger children). In order to prepare young kids for this, it may be helpful to get them used to the idea before school starts. If parents have previously avoided taking their kids along when running errands, it might be helpful to bring them so they can practice wearing masks in stores, and get used to seeing other people wearing them. It may also be helpful to allow kids to choose their own cloth masks, so they have some agency in the matter. This may make them more likely to want to wear it when parents are not around as well.

Other Practices at School

There are a number of other habits parents should discuss with their children in advance, so they are not surprised at school. Talking to your kids about washing their hands and not touching their face is extremely important, especially for younger children. Physical distancing will also be key. Discuss how your kids can reunite with their friends while avoiding hugs or high fives. Lastly, kids at school will not be permitted to share supplies, which will seem to be in direct contrast from all of the lessons they’ve been taught about the importance of sharing.

Having honest conversations about all of these issues with your children, and allowing them to ask questions and express frustrations will help to ensure they know what to expect when they walk back into schools in September. Mental preparation for the new school environment will go a long way to helping them adjust.

General Back to School Anxieties

The older we get, the more quickly time seems to pass. So much so that we often forget how long summer break can feel when you’re 8, 9 or 10 years old. Kids across Canada have now been out of school for six months, which must seem like a lifetime in their eyes. The significance of this break from the school routine may exacerbate any anxieties some children tend to feel at the start of any new school year, what with a new teacher, new classmates and new things to learn. Below are some tips on how to help your child with any anxieties they might be experiencing before they go back to school:

  • Organize schedules in advance. This will be particularly important for families with shared parenting plans, who may be getting back into the routine of sharing custody during the school year. Make sure everybody knows the details of who will be where and when, so your children can acclimate themselves to the new schedule, and have the comfort of knowing what to expect.
  • Spend time together as a family leading up to the school year starting, and beyond. Kids in most cases have grown accustomed to spending considerably more time with their parents than usual over the last six months. They may feel insecure about what changes the school year will bring in relation to that, so it’s important to instill a sense of security when it comes to parent/child relationships. Finding time for quality family time once the school year starts will be important to ensure kids feel secure in their relationships at home.
  • Allow and encourage your child to express their fears, and address them together. Sometimes fears seem bigger when they’re not said out loud, so taking the time to listen and discuss your child’s worries will go a long way to helping them feel as though they can conquer them, and let them know they have an ally in doing so.
  • Discuss ‘adult’ problems away from your child whenever possible. There is a lot happening in the world that is creating anxiety and stress for parents as well. While it may be tempting to discuss these issues with your children around, the Alberta Blue Cross recommends keeping adult problems away from kids so they don’t take on additional stress. For parents who may have a contentious relationship and share custody of their kids, this also means avoiding harmful discussions of the other parent in the child’s presence. Parents should be doing everything they can to encourage healthy and active relationships with both parents whenever possible.

The family law lawyers at Mincher Koeman are exceptionally experienced with respect to child custody and access disputes following a divorce or separation. We will work with you to ensure a custody and access arrangement that fits your family’s specific circumstances. Contact our office today by calling us at 403-910-3000 or contact us online.

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