We have been welcoming students back to school at St. Barnabas since our founding in 1971. For nearly 50 years we’ve ushered in each school year in a similar fashion, but this year is different than anything we’ve experienced before.
Parents and students of the St. Barnabas School community have been offered 2 educational options for their children. With the option to keep children at home as the country still contends with COVID-19, the plans for students who will attend school on campus will have physically distanced custom desk shields and clean purified classroom air to name a few of our health measures. Some of you have already contacted us looking for parenting tips on how to talk to your children about what’s happening in the world around us. Every child and family is different, and we’re all processing this pandemic differently. But, we’ve compiled a few simple parenting tips that we think might help your family navigate this new way of attending school.
Love vs. Fear Mindset
Whether you’ve chosen to send your kids back to the classroom or keep them at home for the foreseeable future, you’ve hopefully made the choice that you feel is best for your family. Adapting to the unknowns of a pandemic can be scary and our children feel that. One of the most important parenting tips is to help children understand the changes they are experiencing from a place of love and not fear. For example, as they see and experience mask-wearing for the first time in their lives it can feel scary and confusing. But, rather than lean into their fear, lean into the reason for masks. We wear masks to keep other people from catching any of our germs. We’re doing this because we love people, not because we’re afraid of them.
The same goes for the manner in which your children will attend school this year. Parents who are keeping their children home from school might consider reminding them that in staying home they’re helping to keep themselves and other people safe. And for those of you who have to explain to your children why their classrooms look different this year, or they aren't getting invited to as many sleepovers. School is different and play dates are different because we want to keep the people we love safe.
This practice of reframing fear into love goes beyond parenting tips. It can help us as parents dial down our own anxiety. When you go to the grocery store and find yourself feeling anxious about being around other people, remember that the lifestyle changes we’ve implemented are for the sake of love, not fear.
Acknowledge Their Loss
Even with love at the center of our decisions as we respond to our new normal, it’s important to remember that living through a pandemic is as scary for our children as it is for us. Not being able to socialize or play with other kids the way they used to can feel like a loss to young children. While your instinct might be to point to the bigger and more significant losses in the world, it's valuable to acknowledge your child’s experience.
There are lots of valuable parenting tips for helping your children cope with COVID-19, but none is more powerful than acknowledging their feelings about it. This year will be different for all of us, and until there are some medical advancements to treat Coronavirus we’ll all be waiting to see what happens next. That’s a hard concept for children to wrap their minds around and we as parents can provide a safe place for them to process their feelings of loss.
Help Them Get Creative
This pandemic may have put a temporary stop to life and school as normal, but it can’t keep kids from finding creative ways to connect with one another. Families all over the country have used online video conferencing tools to stay in contact with their loved ones. But that doesn’t have to be the end of your kids’ connection with their school pals.
Do you remember the old days of sending mail? Perhaps now is the perfect time to bring back the concept of pen pals! This is one of those parenting tips that will require the involvement of other families in your child’s class. Exchange mailing addresses with other families at school and encourage your children to send notes and fun activities to their classmates. Can you imagine the joy they’ll have when they get some snail mail?
Also, even though social distancing is still highly recommended, there are still plenty of ways kids can get together without being close together. Reach out to some friends and organize an outdoor activity like a movie night, picnic, or beach date where you can be together outdoors while maintaining a reasonable distance from one another.
Everything is different, you feel it, and your kids feel it. At St. Barnabas School we’ll be doing our best to make the transition back to the classroom as smooth as possible, but we all need to work together. If you’re interested in more parenting tips simply search parenting tips on our website and you’ll find plenty of helpful information. If you need more clarity about what we’re doing to keep our students, faculty, and staff safe this year, contact us anytime. SBES, where children learn to lead, love, and laugh.