I had promised to stop talking about school when I wrote last week, but alas with the recent announcement regarding school in the fall, I thought that perhaps we should chat out a few things and then get back to summer!
In my little part of the world, families can once again send their elementary children back to school full time come September, or opt to do distance learning. For some, there was great rejoicing at having the kids back in school full time. For others, you are feeling a little panicked by the whole idea. No matter which side of the fence you sit on, or if you hover between both sides of the lawn, I’ve got some suggestions to help make your September a little smoother. While there are obvious differences in how this Fall compares to every other start of school we can remember, there are many things that remain the same. The main thing that hasn’t changed is that your children are looking to you to lead them, encourage them and help them feel safe and secure. Let’s all take a deep breath and dive in. Don’t worry, you’ve got this!
Make Friends With Routine
While I will be the first to say that spontaneity is a blast, it can leave us feeling like there is no rhythm to our day. We are left walking in circles, wondering what to do next. Routine is a parent’s best friend. When you establish a routine, the day just goes a little smoother. Everyone knows what to expect next and this leads to fewer meltdowns for everyone involved. While I still want to enjoy the lazy days of summer, we will be starting to incorporate a little more routine as we get closer to the start of school. Start small by having consistent bedtimes and wake up times during the week. Save later nights and sleep in mornings for the weekend. This leads me to my next tip…
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is often underrated in our society. There is so much value in consistently getting enough sleep, no matter your age. This is where routine is once again one of your biggest allies. If the timing of going to bed has started to get out of hand, begin by inching your way back to a regular bedtime in 5 minute increments. Not sure how much sleep your child should be getting? Check out this great resource!
Practice Wearing Masks
When I first started wearing a mask for groceries, it felt so strange. While it is still not my favourite accessory, I have gotten used to it. Our kids will too. While in our area, masks are only mandatory for grades 4 and up, they are still suggested for the younger children especially in common areas, such as bathrooms or the library. Consider having your child get used to wearing a mask by gradually extending the time they wear it at home. I am not recommending that they wear it all day long, or even every day. I am however suggesting that home should be their safe place and learning to do something that feels strange is better when we are at home. Perhaps they can wear it while having screen time just to get used to the feeling. Once they have it down pat, no more practice is needed. Remember to label your child’s mask with their name. While you are at it, send an extra because life happens.
Practice Washing Hands
Now, you might be thinking that this only applies to those of you with small children, but honestly, take a good look at how your middle schooler washes their hands. It wouldn’t hurt to brush up on hand washing skills across the board. It is shocking I know, but soap actually works better when you take the time to rub it all over your hands and in between your fingers rather than taking a pump of soap and washing it right down the drain.
Lunch Box Help
I’ve spent many a nutrition break in kindergarten classrooms as a supply staff. I’ve sanitized the table before eating time begins, I’ve encouraged proper handwashing and I’ve seen kindergarteners try to drag their lunch bag on the floor all the way to their eating spot. Yes, I’ve stopped them, but not before they’ve collected a little something special along the way.
Consider sending a little tea towel to use as a place mat while eating. While I do believe that schools will do their very best to keep surfaces clean, the reality is they can use all the extra help we can give them.
While I am a big advocate of bite sized finger foods for the smaller ages while at school, this year is a little different…okay, a lot different. I still recommend bite sized foods, but encourage your child to use a fork for eating and keep those fingers out of their mouths. In the next couple of week’s, we will dive into what to pack. For now, my focus is on practicing skills that will help prep your child for school.
For our younger learners, start practicing with lunch bags and food containers now. Let them use their new lunch bag and dishes at home so that they can get really good at opening their own things. Imagine a class of 25 and staff having to open containers for even half of the class. Needing to wash hands or use sanitizer between each child’s belonging will be very time consuming and harsh on hands.
Even if you are choosing to do distance learning with your children this year, I still believe that there is value in packing a lunch. This will save time mid-day and also help your child develop responsibility and independence as they help pack their lunch.
Just like at the beginning of the pandemic, we banded together and supported one another the best way we knew how. As school approaches and we are all trying to figure out the best thing for our families, may we once again band together and encourage one another. May we come alongside the people who are welcoming our children back to school, be it custodial, administrative, teaching, support staff and transportation services and let them know we have their back. Together is the only way to do it right!