COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Kids across the country are preparing to go back to school whether its virtually, in person or a mixture of the two.
Parents and students alike are skeptical and worried about whether back to school plans will work.
“How they’re going to spend their time, how they’re going to be able to socialize in the way they were before. I think there’s still going to be some anxiety and individuals who were most vulnerable prior to the pandemic are going to need the most support,” said Dr. John Ackerman, a psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Ackermann explained as parents decide whether or not to send their kids back in person, they are also deciding the structure of their children’s day.
“There’s decisions each person’s going to have to make to figure out: How do I build routine into my day? How do I add value? And how do I make sure there’s a structure there even if my school isn’t necessarily imposing that structure on them,” he said.
For kids going back to school in person, masks will be a major change they encounter.
Dr. Sara Bode, a pediatrician with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, encouraged parents to prepare their kids for mask wearing as soon as possible.
“You don’t want that to be the first day you’re talking about this or the first day they’re using these restrictions,” Dr. Bode said. “Specifically for mask wearing now is the time to start practicing and preparing around that so that kids are comfortable when the day comes.”
Some of those mask preparations can start at home.
“Wear it around the house. Maybe start with a small amount of time, even if you’re home but having them wear that while they’re doing their home activities is just going to help them learn to do this for longer and longer periods of times,” Dr. Bode said.
Dr. Bode added parents and guardians play a major part in setting an example by helping children feel comfortable wearing a mask and making sure their child’s mask feels comfortable.
“Children follow their [parents] lead,” Dr. Bode said. “You need to also be wearing your mask all the time when you’re going out in public. You might need to try a couple different kinds. Try to get those now and have them practice until they find one that they like and then making it as fun as you can. So, if there’s colors they want or decorations, practicing putting it on their stuffed animals, if it’s a younger child, can be helpful.”
Parents can also set a good example with mental preparations.
Ackerman emphasized that parents should remind kids it’s okay to ask questions, ask for help, and that adults need help too.
“When they’re struggling, they can reach out for help. Have routines that they can engage in to get support, that’s a great model for kids to see,” Ackerman said. “We’re never all 100 percent so making sure that we get help when we need it is a sign of strength and bravery, and the more we let our kids know that, the better off they’re going to be.”
After six months away from the classroom, it is important more than ever to get back into those good routines.
“Make sure that they’re sleeping well, that they’re getting up their regular time, that they’re eating regular meals, that everything is set up for them succeed,” Dr. Bode said.
With so much uncertainty, giving kids options as part of that routine can help them feel more at ease.
“When we make decisions, maybe it’s a meal time, maybe it’s a preferred activity later in the day, it can really help a young person feel more in control when they have some say over things,” Ackermann said. “It’s nice to have some routine, but letting those kids make the call about how they spend some of their down time and that they have a say, that they can impact the world when it feels the world is a little out of control, is a big deal.”
Doctors want everyone to know that every family and child is different so there’s no one size fits all solution.
You can find more tips on how to prepare your child to wear a mask here.