Here are some tips for parent to help prepare their children or the ‘new normal’ when they return to school.

Parents need to help students understand – in an age-appropriate way – that although we are going back to ‘normal’, it will be a ‘new normal’. Things will be different for quite some time still. It is important to explore ways to help them prepare mentally and emotionally for the changes that may be on the cards.

With more grades returning to school in line with South Africa’s phased back-to-school approach, parents and guardians should keep the lines of communication open through frank conversations and feedback, an education expert says.

“Our children are being faced with many challenges on different fronts during this time. Despite their schools being familiar spaces, what they are returning to looks different than it did before,” says John Luis, Head of Academics at ADvTECH Schools.

Children have been exposed to the concerns around fear of COVID-19, the economic impact of the lockdown, keeping their educational journeys on track despite not attending school, and many other stressors,” he notes.

The economy and schools are opening up again and our daily lives are returning to some new version of normality. However, children will still have to grapple with many and new challenges in the weeks and months to come.

Help for parents

“Parents should be realistic. They should not expect students to bounce back into the school groove immediately. It is going to take some time to adjust to reshuffled curricula  and the logistical requirements around staying as safe as possible.  So, children must be prepared that although they are getting back into a school routine, things will still be very different. This should be accepted and embraced as the new way we’ll live our lives for now,” says Luis.

Parents should study the information from schools on how the adjusted logistics will work, what is expected from students in terms of mask wearing and social distancing, and any other novel processes. Most importantly, they should discuss this with their children to ensure the children are not caught off-guard by the changes.

“Parents have an important role to play in helping their children understand the situation. They must also acknowledge and help their children to navigate their emotional responses in a healthy way,” says Luis.

It’s all about routine

It is also necessary to design and start implementing new routines, he says.

“The school day will look different. School times may be staggered and there will be no extramurals. Parents who work need to consider how they are going to manage these changed logistics. Children may take some time to get used to waking up early again and resuming a stricter routine.

“There are many examples of how the days and the lives of our children will change. This will also take its toll, which is why communication is so important. As is understanding that everyone is trying to find their groove again. However, that it isn’t always going to be easy. We have to allow our children the space and support to find their own feet again on their educational journey.”

Playing catch up

Very importantly, some allowance must be made for the fact that some students might return to find that some of their peers have mastered work which they have not yet managed to do.

“Educators are very aware of this. They will be doing all they can to get everyone on the same page again. Adding undue pressure at this stage will only introduce additional anxiety for children and their parents. If a child is concerned about ‘being behind’, reassure them that you will address the matter together, and speak to the teacher to get guidance,” says Luis.

“The key to the coming transition is to understand that things will be different. Things will be challenging at first, but with understanding and regular, open communication, the road will become increasingly less rocky.”

For more help on getting ready for back to school follow these top tips.