Some K-3 students will be returning to classroom learning in Roseburg on Oct. 5 while others will transition to a new virtual classroom setting, and still others are getting in the groove of their virtual or other at-home education program.
This week I consulted with Anela Plunkett, a school psychologist for Roseburg Public Schools, for resources and information to help students with re-entry
Like an astronaut returning from space, re-entering the social atmosphere can be an exhilarating mix of fun and exhaustion. There’s the sweet relief of lights at the end of the tunnel if you’ve made it this far working from home or being unable to work, to anticipate the first morning your child is able to go to school is awesome. For students the work of getting into a school day routine again — waking up in the dark, packing a lunch and walking to the bus stop in the chilly morning air — may be less than enthusiastic.
Here are a few ideas to consider on how to minimize the overwhelm for you and your learner and to find your new balance together.
Create a structureStudies show how having routines and rituals can cut down on the level of anxiety hormones for parents and children. Calming routines for different aspects of your day — i.e. morning, after school and bedtime — can help break down the parts of time and help you focus on what works and what needs more work. Making a ritual like calling at the end of the school day when your student gets off the bus, or taking a walk together when you get home from work, that you and can look forward to doing together is also part of a good daily routine.
Routines for parents: https://www.thekitchn.com/calming-routines-study-2020-23080426
Peace of Mind Parenting webcourse — $35 or free with 14-day trial on the website
This course by Dr. Rebecca Branstetter offers videos and information with a calming tool kit, short videos on structure and emotional check points, calming tool kit and scripts to handle challenging behaviors.
Plunkett said the internet offers a lot of free resources for parents to google “calming routines for kids” “daily routines for distance learning” etc.
But she gently encourages parents to unburden themselves of perfect expectations.
“That’s the downside of information — it’s almost impossible not to compare yourself and ask yourself am I being a good parent?” Plunkett said. “That kid is reading; that kid is doing x. I always have to check myself: Is my kid happy, do they know I love them? You always have to talk to yourself as your best friend. What is the advice you would give your best friend? You would give them grace. That idea really resonates with me.”
Plan aheadDo you have all the school supplies and materials to start the first day? Even students in a distance learning environment will need notebooks and other supplies to work out problems, write down ideas and take notes.
What is your bus pickup? What time(s) do you need to be places and where are the pickup or drop off sites? Are you packing lunches or buying at school? Do you need to have extra clothes or shoes for special activities? Do students need to bring any extra masks i.e. if their strings break?
The school sites will all have face shields and masks available, but your student may be more comfortable in having one from home. Is your student able to bring a comfort object i.e. a stuffed animal or blanket? Maybe it needs to stay at school and not travel back and forth to home, or maybe those items are not allowed this year.
Ask questions, navigate fearsGo over questions from your learner about what to expect in the classroom. If your teachers or school have given out information and planning materials, make sure to go over these together so the student knows the new rules and has time to feel confident with the changes and expectations. Contact your school or your teachers to ask questions if you still don’t know the answers.
“There can be a lot of hesitation because you don’t know how to close to be – or how do I talk to people again,” Plunkett said. “I know I’ve been chunking things for myself because I feel overwhelmed.”
Create a safe space to have daily conversations, at the dinner table or reading books at night together, where your learner can ask questions as they navigate their new routines.
Be prepared for changesShifting classrooms or teachers may be a regular occurrence as students and staff are settling into place. Prepare your learners ahead of time with information as much as possible, but then work at having an easy attitude and conversations about not knowing what to expect and having kids feel confident and be ready to change directions too.
Be ready to transition back Books are great tools for starting dialogue. Go Dogs Go! by P.D. Eastman is a picture book that has fun with traffic lights and could be used as an idea for talking about schools opening (green light!) but maybe needing to transition back to distance learning again (red light!)
Lots of downtime after schoolLeave plenty of room for downtime after school and room for kids to decompress over the weekend. Being out of the house for eight-hour stretches, burning social and mental energy takes a lot of work, so now is not the time to overschedule.