Here's help for parents with children facing the “new normal” when returning to school or preschool.
It goes without saying that things have been different and difficult over the past several months. Children of all ages have been isolated from their friends and in many cases confined to a small, indoor environment. On the other side of the coin, there have been some positive elements as parents and children have had more time together, while the confinement and uncertainty might have taken its toll.
Many families have adapted to the new environment with “virtual” everything - virtual parties, virtual playdates and virtual gaming. And Zoom has increased its daily user community to a staggering 300 million.
As governments across the world ease out of a locked-down, quarantined environment, some children will be going back to the classroom and be able to mix with their old friends. The timing for this and the new “rules” is still unclear. In some situations, they will be going to a new school, perhaps they will be meeting new friends. Certainly, after months at home, they will return to an environment quite different from the classrooms that they left.
Still, everyone is waiting with eager anticipation for a return to “normal” although this return will be gradual over many months, or even years. For adults this will be stressful but for children, particularly the younger ones, the stress level might be even higher.
When they do return to school or preschool, there certainly will be a “new normal”. Parents can help ease the transition. Here are five steps we believe will be useful.
Talk to your child and tell them what to expect – stress the benefits of meeting their friends again but also tell them honestly that they will face challenges – social distancing, face masks, hand washing etc. They will be somewhat accustomed to many of these at home but others may be new or different. Find out from your school what the new rules will be. Plan for the changes which can be expected.
Consider giving them a reward for “tackling the unknown” – a new outfit, a new backpack, a new blanket, a new lunch box.
Use a fictional character to provide them with strength in their imagination. For example, “How do you think the Five Enchanted Mermaids would overcome these challenges?” We have added some wise words at the end of this blog from the mermaids themselves, which you can read to them.
Host a party for them and their friends as soon as it is safe to do so. If this seems too far out, plan a virtual party. Tell your child about this before they return to school so they can select their friends for invitations and go in with an upbeat message for them.
After their first day, talk to them about their experiences. What was easy? What was difficult? What made them happy? What made them sad?
Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section.
From the Five Enchanted Mermaids:
Hi, I'm Zari!
If you’re unsure about why some things are changing, it’s a good time to reach out to a trusted adult to ask them for information and support – and a really good hug! We all know that can help.
Hi, I'm Sofia!
If you understand what’s bothering you, then it’s a lot easier to find the solution. Sometimes we get cranky and don’t really know why. Chat with yourself – ask yourself: Why am I sad today? It could be because you miss your friends and family or want to go play, but can’t.
Hi, I'm Anna!
When we can’t do the things we like to do, like go to the park and play with our friends, it can make us unhappy. When this happens I tell myself to be kind to ME! I say nice things to myself and it helps me feel happier.
Hi I'm Jenny!
When I feel unsure and confused, I smile on the outside, even if I don’t feel like smiling on the inside. Then I notice that my outside smile helps me feel better!
Hi, I'm Emily!
When things are happening around us that we don’t understand, it’s a good idea to remind ourselves to be brave. Sometimes I sing my favorite song and hug my favorite stuffed animal.
The Five Enchanted Mermaids celebrate diversity in our world and the belief that each child deserves to have a mermaid that looks like them. Through their individual personalities and traits, they weave stories that help teach skills for children in this age group.
The idea for the Five Enchanted Mermaids was born to provide a fun but educational backdrop for girls aged 3 to 7 years. The characters address emotional skills (making friends, resolving conflicts, coping with change, making their own choices and “being good people”) and educational skills (learning to read, the alphabet, counting, symmetrical shapes, time, value of monetary coins/notes) that are important at that age in the development of young girls.
The stories use each of the diverse mermaids as a role model for behavior and values.
LifeMadeSimple, LLC and acclaimed children’s book author, Lois Petren, are collaborating to provide a series of books, party accessories and other appropriate items to support these goals.
Visit us at www.fiveenchantedmermaids.com.