As some Virginia students return to in-person learning, COVID-19 is not the only threat to their health.
While some parents may focus on their child’s sanitizing and mask-wearing, they may not be thinking about the psychological impact of returning to class.
Dr. Michelle Rozen, a change expert specializing in human interaction, said children going back to in-person learning will have to deal with significant adjustments.
It’s been almost a year since many students switched to all virtual learning, and “We’ve taught them for a whole year to fear other people,” Rozen said.
Rozen said that parents need to prepare for other fears that could come with going back to a more social, in-person environment. For one, the relationships children had with their friends at school may have changed dramatically.
“My youngest daughter is in seventh grade. When she left school, she was in the middle of sixth grade,” Rozen said. “I try to explain to her how much change everyone has gone through, including herself.”
Rozen advised teaching your children to give their friends the benefit of the doubt if they act differently than they remember.
“We don’t know what the other kids have been through over the course of that year and how kind you have to be to other people,” Rozen said. “Even if you think that they are not fair, even if you think that they are being mean.”
“Because you don’t know if they’ve lost their home; if their parents were stressed out; if their parents parted ways; if they went through a lot of financial difficulty. You just don’t know.”
Parents may want to protect their kids from the struggles they will go through, she said, but the reality is, they can’t.
“This is the story of this generation. This is what they went through and are still going through,” Rozen said. “This is a pandemic, and we can’t take that reality away from them. What we can do is we can be there for them, and we can up our game when it comes to communicating with our kids.”
As life evolves into a new normal, adults will get busy with their daily routines that need to be accomplished, and they may not be as available to their children as they need to be.
Rozen’s advises parents to make a plan and provide extra effort into being available to your children in the days, weeks and months after returning to in-person learning.
“There is only one way to do it, and that way is to be there and to talk,” Rozen said. “To let them experience what they’re experiencing and to be there for them and hug them and tell them that it’s OK, and we understand.”
A parent’s job, she said, isn’t to solve their child’s problems but to listen. Parents must assure their children that they will always be in their lives and get through any difficulties together no matter what they are going through.
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