Healthy Tip Tuesday – Supporting your child’s mental health as they return to school during COVID-19

(Ohio) – The coronavirus outbreak has caused major disruptions to daily life, so how can we as parents help them navigate the upcoming school year?

Healthy Tip Tuesdayis brought to you by Trinity Hospital Twin City.

According to Unicef, while the return to school many be welcomed and exciting for many students, others will be feeling anxious or frightened. The organization has put together the following questions you may have along with a few guidelines and recommendations.

My child is scared to go back to school. How can I help him feel at ease?

Officials say that starting school or starting a new school year can be stressful at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic. You can make your child feel at ease by having an open conversation about what it is that’s worrying him.her and letting him/her know that it’s natural to feel anxious. Experts explain that children may feel nervous or reluctant to return to school. They say it’s important for you to be honest and consider taking openly with them about some of the changes they’ll notice at school such as wearing masks, and smaller class sizes.

As for the difficulties your children may face being distanced from friends and teachers while at school, you can encourage them to be creative. Get them thinking about other ways they can bond and stay connected.

And always be sure to reassure children about safety measures that are in place, officials add. They say it’s important children understand the measures are in place to keep everyone safe and healthy.

My child’s school is recommending the wearing of protective clothing, which is making my child feel more nervous. What should I say to her?

Approach this conversation with empathy, saying that you know she is feeling anxious about coronavirus, but that it’s healthy to talk about our worries and emotions, experts explain. Children may also get upset or frustrated if they are finding it hard to wear masks, especially when running or playing. You can reassure your children that lots of adults are working hard to keep your family safe, but emphasize that it’s important we all follow the recommended measures to take care of more vulnerable members of our community.

How can I encourage my child to follow precautions (such as frequent handwashing, physical distancing, etc.) at school without alarming her?

Unicef added that one of the best ways to keep children safe from COVID-19 and other diseases is to simply encourage regular handwashing. Parents can make this fun by singing along with their favorite song or doing a dance together. Make sure to teach them about how even though germs are invisible, they could still be there. When children understand why they need to wash their hands, they’re likely to continue doing so.

You can also show children how to cover a cough or a sneeze with their elbow and ask them to tell you if they start to feel like they have a fever, cough, or are having difficulty breathing.

My child is not part of the same group as his close friends returning to school and is feeling even more isolated. How can he feel more connected to the classroom and his friends?

If your child’s school starts to return gradually, your child may be anxious about being separated from his friends. Continue to reassure your child that schools will open again for everyone once it’s safe. When the official reopening of schools is announced, help him get ready to return to school by sharing information on when and how this will happen.

Letting your kids know ahead of time that schools may need to close again will help them to be prepared for the period of adjustment ahead. It’s also important to continue to remind them that learning can happen anywhere – at school and at home – and that they can also keep in touch with and support their friends online in the meantime

Safe and monitored use of online games, social media, and video chat programs can provide great opportunities for children to connect with, learn, and play with their friends, parents, and relatives while at home. You could also encourage your children to use their voices online to share their views and support those in need during this crisis.

You can encourage your children to take advantage of digital tools that get them up and moving, like online exercise videos for kids and video games that require physical movement. Remember to balance online recreation with offline activities, including time outside, if possible.

For more information and other commonly asked questions, be sure to read the full article published by Unicef experts here.

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