Here we are, Labor Day Weekend, the moment we’ve all been waiting for (just kidding). This Tuesday will be the first day of school for many kids with a new version of distance learning in place. If you’re like me and have kept your head buried in the sand hoping this day would never come, well here it is, and it’s time to face the music.
I also happen to have a child with anxiety and one thing I’ve learned is that preparation is key. I’m thinking its safe to say we all have some level of anxiety at this new beginning so perhaps some preparation would be helpful for all of us.
Fortunately, I’ve been working with parents all over the country, some for whom school has already started and I’ve had a chance to hear how it’s going for them so far and what they wish they prepared ahead of time. Here is a list of the top 5 things you can do to get ready now (and I mean like right now, today, or this weekend, no more hiding). Yes, there’s still time. Don’t worry, you got this.
1. Prep the environment and technology
SET UP A WORKSTATION: Do you have a designated place for distance learning? Where is it? Does everyone know what are the acceptable places they are allowed to be?
TEST OUT THE TECHNOLOGY: What devices will the children use? Do they work? Are they plugged-in or charged? What about headphones? You don’t want to be running out to buy new power cords at 8am on Tuesday morning.
LOG-IN: Do you need to download the apps the school will use or bookmark the sites? Do you have the log-in and password information for each student? Can you log-in ahead of time and pre-read any instructions the teacher may have posted?
2. Set expectations
As of right now, not many of us know what to expect on the first day so it’s ok to acknowledge that. Let your kids know what you do know and what might happen on the first day.
TALK WITH YOUR KIDS: Are you working from home during this time? Let your children know where you will be and when you will be available. Do you know if there are times you will be available to be with them, times that they are allowed to interrupt you, and times you are not available at all? Who do they go to with a question or a problem? Is it ok to ask a sibling for help? Tell them now so they know what to expect.
GET GRANULAR: When and where will they eat breakfast, snack, and lunch? Who will make it? Where do the dishes go when they’re done? Lay out as many details ahead of time. If your child reads, maybe write it out for them to see if you’re not around.
3. Set up visual cues
PRINT SCHEDULES: Post a copy of each person’s schedule where everyone can see them.
WHO’S AVAILABLE WHEN? Perhaps color code the schedule by adult availability or write out who is available to help at what times.
WHAT TIME IS IT? Most kids have no concept of time and are used to a school bell or a teacher telling them when it’s time to transition. Put a clock in the room where the children will be or show them where to look for the time on their device. Once you know the kids’ schedules, consider setting up alerts or a calendar notification on their device or with Alexa or similar device if you have one.
4. Be Ready for Stress
ANTICIPATE YOUR OWN NEEDS: Chances are good there will be some anxiety that first week, maybe even tears. Consider what typically helps you when you’re feeling stressed and prepare it ahead of time. Personally I swear by these Anxie-T herbal supplements but I will also make sure to have some Bach’s Rescue Remedy on hand. Do you have a favorite tea or a favorite mug that makes you happy? Whatever it is, have some on hand and ready.
SAFE WAYS TO EXPRESS EMOTIONS: What does your child do when they are stressed or frustrated? Can you have a chat with your child ahead of time so they know what they are allowed to do when they feel that way?
PLANNED RELEASE: Can you plan some fun or relaxation time away from screens after school or work hours?
5. Check-in and be ready to be flexible
Remember this is new for everyone and we’re all doing our best. It’s not going to be perfect. There will be some points of frustration and difficulty and it’s a good idea for everyone in the family to know that and be ready to be flexible, especially that first week. Check in with each member of the family to ask them what works and doesn’t work. Be open to adjusting as necessary.
Bonus: Be gentle and kind with yourself, your children and your children’s teachers. Striving for perfection will only create unnecessary stress. Demonstrating that you are open to learning will teach your children that even though this may be a difficult time, it can be done. Together, we can all do hard things.
There you have it. Good luck! I hope this helps. If you have any tips or words of wisdom or advice, please share! The only way we’ll get through this is together.