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Preparing Your Child for the Start of School

July 28, 2020
By Mara Mauze, PhD, ABPP

        We have had lots of communication about what parents can expect in sending your children back to school with us in August.  However, I wanted to take a moment to give you some ways to help prepare your child for the start of the school year. Here are some tips to help with a smooth transition back into school.

Prepare for the Home Visit. Your child’s teacher(s) will be reaching out to schedule a home visit. Whereas in past years these have occurred in your home, this year we are requesting that these take place in your yard or driveway.  Prepare your child for the teacher playing in the yard with them.  Let them know their teacher will be wearing a mask. If you are planning to send your child to school in a mask, this is a good time to have your child practice wearing it for a short time. 

Practice Self Help Skills.  These last couple of weeks are good times to look at your child’s clothing and abilities in the bathroom.  Encourage pants, shorts, or leggings that can be easily pulled up or down independently for easier bathroom access.  Consider Velcro shoes for school days so your child can refasten his or her shoes if needed.  Practice hand washing.  This is a great time for your child to practice counting to 20, saying the A-B-C’s or singing happy birthday twice while washing hands.

Mask Preparation.  This coming school year all teachers and staff will be wearing masks.  Children are given the option of wearing masks.  Prepare your child for friends and adults wearing masks.  Put your own mask on, showing your child what that looks like.  Make different faces with your mask on and have your child identify how he knows if you are happy or sad.  My youngest son says “your eyes are crinkly” when I smile with my mask on.  Change the tone and volume of your voice working with your child to identify if your voice sounds happy, sad, or firm. If you are planning to send your child to school in a mask, practice now.  Have your child put their mask on and engage in a fun activity, like reading a book or playing a game.  Start small.  Maybe your child wears their mask for 10-15 minutes at first.  Gradually extend the time.  My children have masks in fabrics they love and their favorite stuffed animals also have masks.  Practice putting masks on and driving around town or driving past friends/family’s houses. Practice how to take a mask on and off without contaminating themselves (remove from the ear loops, fold the outside part in).  I’m having my children practice getting their masks on and off before eating lunch in preparation for school. Stress the importance of not touching someone else’s mask. Just like you wouldn’t put your fingers in someone else’s mouth, you wouldn’t put them on someone else’s mask.

Prepare for School Changes.  Talk to your child about the changes this school year. Let them know that teachers will not be getting them in and out of cars this year but will be taking their temperature.  Remind them that parents won’t be allowed on the playground but can stay in the parent parking zone to stand or sit and watch children play. Talk about the classes being smaller and the advantage of getting to know children even better and getting to be outside more.  Play school at home.  Young children do wonderfully working out feelings or ideas through play.  So play school.  Maybe your child is the teacher and gets to wear a mask and take your temperature.  Switch on and off. 

Focus on the Positive.  Children learn by watching us and often respond as we do.  Focus on the positive aspects of school: playing outside, making friends, using their imaginations.  Be matter of fact about the changes and encourage your child to ask questions.  The calmer and more positive you are in your response, the easier children will adapt.

In many ways this year will look different from past years. However, our goal is for things to feel as typical for our children as possible. Some things will be obviously different, like masks and more frequent hand washing. However, our smaller class sizes will give our students freer reign in the classroom and our additional outdoor spaces will give children new places to explore.  We are excited about the year ahead and thank you for your help in preparing your child as well.

Crystal Monaghan says:
July 31, 2020 07:16 AM CST

So beautifully put as always. Thank you for this. :)