Masks, Social Distancing And Hand Sanitizing To Become The Norm As New School Year Begins

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By Balwant Sanghera

Another school year has started with students going back to school this week.  This school year won’t be like the other ones in the past. COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic has changed everything. Face mask are recommended for students from kindergarten to grade 3 students. However, for students from grades four to 12 face masks will be mandatory. Other measures like keeping the distance, frequent sanitizing of hands etc. are encouraged. These changes are bound to increase anxiety amongst students who will be meeting their teachers in person after a long time. This will be more so in case of students entering kindergarten. For the first time, most of them will be away from home and with a brand new teacher and support staff. As such, they need a lot of support and reassurance in order to begin a brand new school year.In addition to kindergarten students, the new school year will also be specially a challenging one for students entering grades four , eight and college/university.

Usually, from K-3 the emphasis is on hands on activities and less on written work. However, beginning in grade four there is usually more writing involved. Thus the first few weeks for grade four students may be more stressful than usual as they get used to the classroom routines. Consequently, it would be helpful to them if the parents/caregivers offer them some extra attention, encouragement and support.  Similarly, students entering grade eight usually face a very different situation and environment that they were used to in the elementary school. Here, instead of one or two teachers, they will be dealing with a number of teachers, usually a different teacher for every subject. They may be missing the handholding they were getting in the elementary school. Thus the students need to become more independent and self-reliant. At the college/university level, the environment is totally different from the one at the elementary or high school.  These students will need even more support, encouragement and support in order to succeed.

Regardless of their placement, every student needs on-going encouragement, support and reassurance. Such a support structure goes a long way in improving the student’s self-esteem. Building and maintaining a strong relationship with our children goes a long way in improving their self-esteem. At the same time it minimizes their anxiety. Promoting self-efficacy in children goes a long way in empowering them. It is the ability to complete a task or meet a challenge using one’s own appropriate strategies. Rather than spoon feeding solutions to the children we should encourage them to tackle the task at hand on their own. Such an approach will help them feel more confident about their own abilities and potential. Be there when your child needs you but don’t try to offer them help when they could manage without it. In this context, there are a number of things that parents/caregivers can do in order to maximize the learning potential of their children.

Staying in touch with your child’s teacher(s) on a regular basis and keeping the lines of communication with school open is greatly beneficial to everyone. Setting aside a distraction free environment for your child to do/review his/her school work should also be very helpful to your child. In this context, it will also be helpful to be a good listener. When your child is trying to talk to you, give him/her your full attention. Ask follow –up questions to ensure that you get the complete message your child is trying to convey to you. Taking the time to listen to your child and responding appropriately will not only make the child feel more confident but also it will strengthen your bond with the child. We need to keep in mind that our children are our greatest asset and resource. As such, we should make every effort to make their schooling as smooth and pleasant as possible.

Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist.