Parenting expert urges families to do 'mental rehearsal' if sending kids back to school on Monday
VANCOUVER -- Some B.C. children will be returning to the classroom on Monday, but the decision over whether to keep kids at home or send them back to school has been challenging for many families.
Parenting expert Alyson Schafer spoke to CTV Morning Live on Friday and is urging parents not to judge others' decisions as each family's circumstances can be very different.
"We don't really know the backstory in different people's lives and what information they're using to weigh their decisions," she said.
She adds that some children can fare better in structured environments and would benefit from being back in the classroom, as opposed to continuing their learning at home, and some parents may be health-care workers eager to get back to the front lines of the pandemic.
"There are some people, they're low-risk families, their kids are very compliant, they're really missing their friends and their kids, they really want to go back to school," she said. "Some kids thrive on routines and it's been quite psychologically a burden for them to stay at home."
B.C. students were last in school full-time on March 13, but the province has now given parents the option of sending their kids back part-time starting June 1. The Vancouver School Board recently released a FAQ that laid out school safety guidelines for when children return to the classroom, which includes asking students to avoid close greetings like hugs and high-fives.
If parents have decided to send their children back to school, Schafer says it's normal for kids to be anxious, but they will also pick up on signals from adults' behaviour.
"They are going to pick up their cues on how safe the situation is by our own calmness," she said. "So if we've made that decision then we need to project to our kids that we've looked at it, that it's safe, and then review that it's going to look a little bit different."
Schafer suggests doing a "mental rehearsal" with your kids to remind them that school will not be exactly as it was when they left in March.
"Some of their friends are not going to be there because their parents haven't enrolled them, that the class sizes are being reduced to small numbers," she said. "You might not even be in the same classroom. You might be in the gymnasium or the library…there will be tape around the desks."
Teachers will also have new health and safety protocols in place that will need to be reviewed with students, which will likely be similar to precautions that are already being practiced at home, Schafer says. She also advises that some "training" might be necessary to adjust children to their new normal, which will likely be in place for quite awhile.
"Just like you train your child to wear their helmet when they ride a bicycle, to look both ways before crossing the street, we have more safety rules," she said, adding that it's important for parents to use a calm approach.
"That initial fear of change and uncertainty will come down over time."
To watch the whole interview, click on the video at the top of this story.