By Pamela Dueck, MA, CCCGrande Prairie PCN Mental Health Therapist
Covid-19, to say the least, has been very disruptive to our children's learning. With almost no notice schools were shut down and learning moved to our homes under parental supervision. This move came with mixed reactions and emotions. On one hand our children were home safe with us and we felt some measure of control over their exposure to Covid-19. On the other hand, we struggled to get our children to remain engaged in learning and after a short period of time parents and children alike were finding themselves fatigued by this arrangement. The end of June came with a sigh of relief for many and a deserved break for all. As we approach September, the anxiety around sending our children back to school is growing. Many anxiously awaited the government's decision to re-open schools or not and, to be honest, many of us likely hoped that they wouldn't so that we would not have to deal with the issue of exposure to the virus in classrooms and school properties. It is also likely that many hoped the schools would re-open so that they could resume some semblance of 'normal' – their children at school and themselves back at work – and avoidance of the continuous fight to get schoolwork done at home. Either way, there is an important decision to make with risk on both sides of it. So how do we make a decision and find a way to reduce our anxiety around whether or not it is the best one?Firstly, be aware that the anxiety around making this decision is normal. Our families and our safety are very important to us, so we naturally feel nervous or anxious when having to make such a vital decision. Remember that every family with school-aged children is having to make this decision – we are all in this together. Please be kind to yourself as you weigh out your options. Also, please be kind to others. We cannot start to judge one another for focusing on our priorities as we individually see them. Secondly, know that whatever decision you make to start off the year is not a permanent decision for the rest of the year. You do not have to know right now how your family will feel once you try one option or another. The local school boards are working to be flexible. This is new for everyone – including the school boards and the teachers – and everyone will learn together and make necessary adjustments as they go. Everyone is heading into this uncertainty at the same time. Base your decision on accurate, up-to-date information:
Read your school division's re-entry plans (on their website) and gauge your comfort level with them. They will outline what their policies and procedures will be around screening, cleaning, masking, distancing, health checks, getting sick, gatherings, etc.
Find out what online learning options there may be for your school division and ask questions if it is unclear as to how it will work for you and your child.
Find out what is expected of you in each scenario.
Talk to your child(ren) and find out their feelings and point of view on returning to school (or not).
Talk to your employer and find out if you have any options for working from home.
Find out what research shows about transmission of the Covid-19 virus and what the recommended protocols for protection are HERE.
The best decision you can make will be based on knowing what each option will look like for you and your child(ren). The more information you gather, the more comfortable you can be with your decision. Regardless of the direction you decide to go, remember that you set the tone. If you show a positive, encouraging attitude towards the experience your children are likely to find it easier to go along with it. If your family can work together, your anxiety about school re-entry will be reduced. Let's head into this school year with an attitude that we can create a positive experience for our children.