Returning To School In Uncertain Times
There is no argument that we are living in strange times. The year 2020 has side swiped most of our plans, ideas, and generalizations of what the world should be. As adults it's been hard to make the best decisions for our families, often in real time. For many kids, this year has been a huge disappointment. From the abrupt transition to distance learning last school year, to the uncertainty of what is to come, it can be too much for kids to weather on their own. Parents want to ease as much of the pain as possible, and children are relying on us to help them cope. With so much changing in the world around us seemingly on a daily basis, how can parents encourage their kids during these trying times? As we approach a new school year, many schools throughout the country are starting in an online learning environment. More prepared and better trained to handle it than before, but still not in person. While others have opted to open up with heavy restrictions. Either way, it will be an atypical year for many students.
The old adage "kids are resilient" has been thoroughly tested this year! While every kid is different, how old they are has much to do with how they handle adversity. Many of the issues they are facing vary by age range, which is why we are outlining how to become an advocate for them throughout a couple different stages of their childhood and adolescence.
There are several principles to keep in mind as we help our youth get through these changes:
- Managing expectations
- Staying active, when there are no organized sports
- Learning how to communicate their feelings and thoughts
- Staying connected with friends
ELEMENTARY AGED KIDS NEED GUIDANCE
Children in the primary school ages are used to being led by their teachers. They are told what they can play at recess, when they may ask a question in class, and exactly how to organize their assignments. They are accustomed to the leadership and direction of a responsible adult. When they were sent home to learn virtually, it was a shock to their system. They did not know how to manage their day, how to keep up with tasks, and how to keep busy. Many younger children weren't able or even interested in keeping up with their studies. They were confused and desperate for normalcy. Parents were at a loss as how to keep their kids engaged in their lessons, and teachers were equally bewildered. Suffice to say that no one had a clue what to do, and summer could not come soon enough!
TEENAGERS RELY ON THEIR PARENTS FOR SUPPORT
Older kids are more independent, they are used to having more responsibility. They don't require as much guidance as their younger counterparts do. What teens crave more than anything is support. Having mom and dad, or a caregiver around to lean on is paramount. They will need to be heard, a cozy meal, and even a hug from time to time. None of that is truer than during this ambivalent season, where the only certainty is change. Many high school aged students covet the comfort of stability, and that's where parents come in, it's truly the only semblance of normalcy they can offer!
Sports have been canceled in many parts of the world, but it doesn't mean that our kids can't practice. At home activities can help keep their skills fresh and their game on point. Since none of us know when practices will resume, it's important to transmit the message that they should continue to work hard and be prepared for when they do.
Establishing small goals can help encourage athletes to stay focused. Perhaps they can use this off time to work on their speed and agility, or stamina, or their bat swing. Help them set attainable objectives, and nudge them along as they work hard to achieve them.
It may be tempting for kids to take a breather from activity during this "break", but that's a big no-no! Walking, playing outside (where permitted), shooting hoops in the driveway, anything that gets the heart rate up for 30 minutes a day is recommended for optimal health. In cases where the outdoors aren't accessible, a YouTube workout is a great alternative. Staying active isn't only physically healthy, but great to relieve mental stress and keep confidence up!
Many kids are disappointed at having to start school with online learning. Some don't mind so much. Either way, kids may not know quite how to express their feelings about this current situation, or other things. As parents, teaching them to communicate well should be near the top of our to-do lists, and there is no better time than the present to tackle it. How can we teach our kids to be better communicators?
- Talk to your kids! Make it a point to set aside a few minutes a day to have a one on one conversation with your child. 5-10 minutes for younger kids, and maybe a little more for teens. The topic can be anything they want to share.
- Sometimes they don't want to share much, and that's okay! Just talk to them about current events, set up the scenario and ask them how they'd handle a certain issue.
- For younger kids, reading together can be a fantastic way to bond. This helps them learn about characters and experience different vocabularies.
- Chat with them about body language. Teens especially have a hard time controlling their expressions and gestures. Let them know it's okay to go against the grain, but there are ways to respectfully disagree, and certain moves such rolling the eyes or crossing the arms, may come across negatively and convey the wrong message.
Back to school looks completely different for everyone, and awareness of that is important. Friends from other areas may start the school year in the classroom, others will stay home. Some will experience a hybrid of the two. Whatever the case may be, parents and kids alike ought to be understanding and respectful of others choices. Diversity of thought has come into play in a big way this year, and it's an excellent opportunity to share that message with kids and teens!
While kids tend to not see beyond themselves, it's never too early to learn mindfulness and compassion. Awareness of those around us, their right to make their own decisions, and the expectation to be considerate can be useful traits as they return to school and in life!
STAYING CONNECTED WITH FRIENDS
We are born with an innate desire for human contact. Oftentimes it doesn't even need to be face to face, hearing the voice of a friend can be enough to bring out a smile. At the beginning of the quarantine period the hardest part for many kids was not seeing their friends. Even as restrictions have loosened up, without a traditional school blueprint, lots of kids may go without connecting with friends. Friends bring us comfort, we need our friends!
When in person contact is impossible, technology is our saving grace. Phone calls, video chats, social media, and even video games allow kids to catch up with their buddies when they can't see one another. This may be the time to relax some of the technology restrictions and let them make the most of what is available to us.
In the cases where in person fellowship is allowed, then scheduling play time can be fun! As long as local health restrictions are followed and parents are comfortable, an afternoon with a friend can make all the difference in the world.
2020 hasn't been all it we'd hope for it to be, but we can still make it a good year for our youth. By following a few of the tactics outlined above, and adding a little patience, families can get through this new school year successfully, perhaps even exceeding expectations!
How have you helped your kids deal with the intricacies of going back to school in this era?
Barbara is the mom behind the blog, Modern Sports Mom. She began writing a craft and lifestyle blog in 2012. As life evolved, and her boys became more involved in sports, she aimed to create a site that would resonate with moms like her, and in 2017 Modern Sports Mom was born. A baseball and football mom, she is fueled by her strong faith, dedication to her family, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee! Barbara lives in beautiful Southern California with her husband, kids, dog, and cat.