This time of year, parents begin thinking of the upcoming school year. This school year is quite a bit different due to COVID-19. There are many new and unusual things to consider regarding this school year on top of normal concerns. Depending on where you reside, some schools have unveiled their plan for the school year, while other school districts are still reacting to changing circumstances. Some schools are preparing for in-person school, some are offering virtual learning only, and some are offering a combination of both or offering a choice to parents. Many school districts are being open about the possibility of their plan having to change depending on the severity of the coronavirus as the school year approaches and progresses. And we're left to prepare our kids for this wild school year as we approach uncharted territory.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways (Proverbs 4:26).
First of all, parents should decide what’s best for their own family. Pay attention to guidelines for schools from the CDC and local governments, note the numbers and trends of COVID-19 in your county, and read the information your school district has sent out regarding the school year. Ask your school administrators any questions you have regarding the school year. It’s important to be informed about the landscape and your options so you can choose what you feel is the best option for your family, and do so before talking to your kids about the details of the school year.
Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance (Proverbs 1:5).
Summer is often a time for annual children's checkups, and a great time to talk to your family doctor or your child’s pediatrician. They can give medical advice and help you weigh out risks against benefits of your children returning to school. Doctors may also be able to give advice on the best practices for maintaining good health.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Keep open communication with your kids. Explain to them the protocols that will take place in school, as school will look a bit differently than previous years. Allow your children to ask a variety of questions and allow them to express their concerns. Children think of the most random scenarios and can worry about how to handle those situations appropriately. Giving them space to ask the “what if’s” will not only prepare them for what action to take but will also ease their worry. Try to normalize going to school in the COVID-19 world. The way we talk about a situation will greatly impact our kids. Communicate changes as they happen to help children adjust to their circumstances. If we are calm and collected about something, our kids will feel more reassured.
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding ( Romans 14:19).
Not every family that you associate with or that is in your community will have the same perspective as you or will make the same choices as your family. This is a great opportunity for parents to be able to teach kids to respect and appreciate diverse views. For example, some families may decide to home-school if their child has a serious health concern. Two-income families may find the in-person option to be more feasible. Each family has their own reasons for their educational choices. Teaching our kids to be sensitive to others during this trying time is an important lesson in empathy. Allowing and encouraging our children to stay connected to friends despite their different family choices will be helpful for many. Families can still remain in contact with friends and family that are social distancing and home schooling or virtual learning.
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching (Proverbs 1:8).
Kids, especially teens, want to fit into their peer group. Our kids may feel the pressure to fit in and may not want to adhere to the recommendations and rules set to keep them safe. Talking to them about the purpose of measures, such as mask wearing, will help them weigh out the benefit of these measures and take ownership of their own actions. Affirm their concern of what others in their peer group think of them, while maintaining your family response to the coronavirus.
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul (3John 1:2).
Assist them in wearing their masks at home to get them comfortable with wearing masks. Seeing people with masks on can be unsettling and frightening at first. Be sure that your child is used to being around others wearing masks while they wear their own. Guide them in practicing proper hygiene such as frequent and necessary hand washing and how to handle sneezing. This will give them practice on how to return to school without constant guidance from teachers and staff.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27).
Find ways to ease your own anxiety. Kids absorb their parents emotions. If you’re overly anxious, it’s likely your kids will be too. Practicing your own self-care such as exercise, taking time for your hobbies, talking to other parents, and taking care of your physical health will boost your own mental health. Meditating on God’s faithfulness and protection will ease worries and will provide peace. Parents can rest in the peace that only God can give, as He cares more for our children than we can. Children will benefit from knowing their parents have peace.
Navigating through a world during a pandemic is challenging in many ways. Parents are considering how to guide their families through scenarios that have not previously been faced. With some guidance and planning, tackling the school year is not only possible but can be promising with God’s help.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster