Back to School brings excitement, stress
Mike Lawrence - Staff Writer
After almost five months out of the classroom, many students across the region have returned to in-class learning on September 2. While some students (and parents) may be looking forward to making the transition back to in-person learning, not everyone felt prepared after the extended break. Rebecca Tibbs is a mother of two boys returning to in-class learning this year. As she explained of her son’s trepidation “the first day was very hard on both of us. I put up a good front though, and made sure I enlisted everyone in helping him realize that his teachers are there to help him grow and keep him safe, just like his family does” She continued by expressing gratitude to the all the teaching staff that aided in setting her young one’s mind at ease “All of the teachers and ECE’s from kindergarten and even some of (his older brother’s) old teachers helped ease the transition…They have done such a wonderful job making him feel welcome and safe.” Other students may fall at the other end of the scale. Nicole Carbone, whose three children are all returning to class this year, stated “(the) boys are happy with their teachers and mates.” She continued “I have worries…what happens when one kid gets sick and I have to stay home for variable periods, and how that (will affect) work, they are a vulnerable age group that requires effort to keep safe”
For some students it may be that this year is their first year attending school regardless of the pandemic. But for others, this year marks a return to the daily routines in-class learning requires. SickKids.ca reports that one impact seen during the school closures was an increase in screen time. Research found that increased time watching TV, playing video games, or consuming digital media was associated with more irritability, hyperactivity, inattention, depression and anxiety.
What can be done to make back-to-school life easier for children and caregivers at this time of year?
The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (OHEO) offers these suggestions: “Gradually get back into school year routines. Talk about routines that will be changing with a return to in-class learning, such as a reduction in screen time activities. Set a bed time/wake up time and stick to it. Set a “screen-time” curfew before sleep so children can wind down before going to bed. They also suggest making a written schedule which can be gone over regularly with children, allowing them to begin to understand the structure of this new routine. Another tip was to normalize mask wearing. While some children take to wearing a mask easily, others may take time to adjust. Be willing to ask them about their fears and worries to help them better understand what they find upsetting.”
For parents or caregivers looking for more assistance in helping their children transition back to classroom learning, there are many online resources available. The website for Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) offers parents tips and strategies with their “School Mental Health Backpack”. Parents also can also visit Firefly.nw.ca for more information on children’s mental health programs locally.