July 27: Thinking Ahead to the Start of School
Updated: Aug 18, 2020
Some local school systems here in Massachusetts have started to announce their plans for fall and some will be announcing in the week ahead. While it is understandable that this information is causing a certain amount of stress for parents, if you have young children I want to encourage you not to talk about plans for school in the fall until we are much closer to the start date. For young children (second or third grade and below), I suggest holding off on these conversations until 1-2 weeks prior to the start of school. If you have older children who are not asking about school, this recommendation holds for them as well. That is, I suggest waiting to talk about school until we are closer to the start date so that children can fully enjoy the slower pace of summer.
If your child is asking a lot of questions about what school will be like in the fall, I recommend setting aside set times each week that you can talk about school and answer questions. You might do this 2-3 times a week, or possibly daily if your child has a lot of concerns about the start of school. I suggest that you set aside a 15 minute block of time ideally at least 2 hours prior to bedtime, put aside all electronics including your phone, and use this ‘talk time’ to listen, respond to queries, and brainstorm about strategies to help the transition go more smoothly. If your child is thinking about school throughout the week, encourage your child to save questions and thoughts for talk time and to write them down on a notepad (with your help if needed) so that they won’t be forgotten. This strategy of ‘time boxing’ worries is a valuable technique that will be useful in many situations over the course of a lifetime.
Whenever children return to school it is highly likely that face coverings will be required. Therefore, I recommend that over the course of the next several weeks you have your child practice wearing a face covering without specifically linking the practice to the start of school. If you need to, you can begin with shorter periods of time and work up to wearing a face covering for an extended amount of time which will mirror children’s experience in school. Starting this process now will allow you time to find face coverings that feel reasonably comfortable and, if needed, will allow your child time to gradually build up to feeling acclimated to wearing a face covering. If your child is resistant, you could use a Positive Behavior Support Plan and provide small rewards or prizes for wearing a mask. Begin with short intervals, perhaps earning a prize for wearing a face covering for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon, then gradually build the amount of time required to earn a prize. If you have small children at home, I recommend incorporating masks into pretend play. For example, you can play stuffed animal hospital – all of the doctors and nurses need to wear masks, or play fire fighters – a great opportunity for water play on a hot day.
Something fun to put on your calendar for August: the Perseid meteor shower will be at its peak August 11-13. Head out to a field, the park, or your back yard, allow ample time for your eyes to adjust to the dark, and check out the amazing meteors. Remind your children that they get make a wish when they see a shooting star!