Parents and their children are in limbo this summer. Some schools may still reopen, in some form, come September. But how can parents make good decisions about what is best for their child?
Working parents (especially mothers) are bearing the brunt of the burden created by closing schools and day care centers in 2020.
What to choose, if your district asks you to choose?
For social children, the isolation is devastating. This lack of social interaction plays out differently at different developmental stages. Like adults, they do best when ways to interact outside the family are established. That may be video, text, or phone chatting, or interactive games played with friends or teams of friends.
Self-contained children, like self-contained adults, do better when interesting material is available to engage them. However, parents have legitimate concerns about having their children spend the lion’s share of their waking hours on their iPads.
I did some calling around to professional educators that I know. The most comprehensive conversation I had was with Jen Breneisen, a Clinical Social worker for the Brookline School district. She has been working with her students via videoconference since March. She is also the mother of elementary school-aged children.
My job, as a buyer’s agent is about asking the right questions to help people discern what is most important, so they can make a good decision. That tactic works in thinking ahead about what to do, come September.
How can parents prepare for the decisions to come about returning to physical schools for the 2020-2021 school year?
This is about what feels right for your family.
What feels safe enough
Everyone has an opinion about what is safe enough. Everyone has an opinion about what is best for your children. Parents, tune this out. Take information from sources you trust, make your decisions. This is the formula for fewer regrets.
Here are a few sentences that you can add to your verbal self-defense kit:
“Thank you for the information. I took a look at it. We are comfortable with our current plan.”
“I understand that you disagree with what we are doing, AND we are comfortable with our current plan.”
What is the ideal for you and your children? What are the steps along the way, to get the best possible situation?
Look at your children’s academic and social development. Think about the long-range consequences for them.
Elementary school-aged children have less autonomy at home than they have at school. At school, they comply with the instructions of their teachers. But there are more children per adult.
At school, children have many social choices. They choose who to play with, talk to, interact with throughout the day. They choose what to wear and how to present themselves. At home, they need to arrange for phone calls or Zoom meetings with other children; it is not spontaneous because it is mediated by an adult.
Tweeners and teens have more control over their own plans, if they have their own devices.
How children are coping
Jen noticed that when her children were on a park social-distanced playdate, it took the children some time to get used to being around other children again. At first, they went to the other children, but didn’t play. They quickly came back to their parents to check in. They did eventually get back to playing, while being aware of keeping a distance.
This insecurity about being around other people takes some time to get past, for adults, as well as children. We don’t know how this will affect children, long-term.
Another thing that Jen noticed was that children are having conversations about consent. “Can you meet me in a park?” “Can I come into your house, or can we only meet outside?”
This negotiation about following social distance rules will serve them well when they get to be teenagers!
Unicef on returning to schools (for parents)
Policy considerations (for Covid safety)
Guidelines for teachers (regarding children’s emotional needs)