Parenting Tips: Back To School During Covid

Is your child ready to return to school after the circuit breaker period? After nearly two months of distance learning, here is some key advice for preparing your child to go back into the classroom.
This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19
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This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19

As the circuit breaker comes to an end, students are returning to campuses across Singapore this week – but this is no ordinary back to school. As they leave behind full time distance learning with relaxed schedules, flexible start times, and parents being the teacher, students will face various challenges as they go back into the classroom.

Children have spent the past two months working alone at a desk in their bedroom or dining room, wearing what they choose rather than a uniform, and being taught virtually rather than face-to-face. So, they cannot be expected to just slot back into their old routine just because they are back on campus, especially when ‘going to school’ will look very different to how it was two months ago.

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com guides you through how to support your child as they return to school, including some top tips from local and international education experts from the Ministry of Education, the EtonHouse International Education group (pictured above), and One World International School.

Be prepared for the ‘new normal’

Both parents and students are likely to have some back to school anxiety, but the calmer and more assured you are about the return to campus, the more confident your child will be. Read the ‘back to school’ guidelines and protocols sent by your school and, if you still have questions, reach out to the school for clarification.

As well as packing pencil cases and PE kits, your child will need their own health and safety pack including face masks and hand sanitizer. You will also need to complete a Travel and Health Declaration Form before your child can return to campus; this should be sent to you by your school. And, for parents with children in local schools, minister of education Ong Ye Kung addresses some common concerns on back to school arrangements here

One World International School (OWIS) head of school Michelle Dickinson says: "As excited as children may be to come back to school after the circuit breaker, and meet their friends and schoolmates, it would be a good idea for parents to remind children that school routines may seem different from what they have been used to."

Discuss the new health and safety procedures

Make sure your child is mentally prepared for the new measures that will be in place at school when they return, from wearing masks to social distancing.

EtonHouse encourages parents to, “Communicate positively with your child to prepare them mentally and educate them on safety measures and emphasis on good hygiene.” The school group also suggests “reading books that explain the virus situation”; the group has launched a series of three books explaining the Covid-19 pandemic to children, which can be downloaded for free on its website.

One World International School (OWIS) head of school Michelle Dickinson has the following advice: “Do remind your children that they must wear a face mask or face shield at all times while in school or on campus. Children will also see that their peers and other community members will be doing the same, so they are not alone in doing this. Preventing the spread of the virus is a community effort and children too have to play their role in supporting this effort.

“While they can now talk to their peers and teachers face-to-face, do caution children to always maintain a safe physical distance from each other at all times. This may be hard for children to follow at first, however, if children understand that this measure is necessary for schools to continue to function, they may find it a more acceptable practice.”

Use the days before your child returns to school to explain why they will have staggered arrival and break timings, be seated in fixed exam-style seating in classrooms and need to wash their hands frequently.

Michelle Dickinson (OWIS) encourages parents to discuss the implications of social distancing with their child before going back to school.

“Children need to understand that safe distancing measures will be in place, and they will be allowed play times only with their own classmates and not the whole school or several classes and grades together.
"As 50% of staff and students are allowed to be on campus at any point of time, children will get to see and interact with their classmates but may not be able to see their friends in other grades during their time in school.”

The MOE reassures parents that schools will play a key role in guiding students through this unusual time.

It says: “In schools, the teachers will also guide the children to put in place these measures and understand the importance of everyone playing our part and staying united to overcome Covid-19.”

Focus on the positives

While children may be used to being away from school for two months on their annual summer break, there are always issues with any kind of transition. In this instance, students may feel overwhelmed by fear, anxiety or uncertainty; they may find it hard to be separated from family; or they may be worried about falling behind with their school work.

EtonHouse says that parents can support their child with three simple steps. Firstly, involve your child in setting up a back to school routine that will “help children to anticipate what is expected of them”. Secondly, have conversations with your child about going back to school.

Renee Sim, senior early years curriculum manager for EtonHouse, says: “If your child says I don’t want to go to school, you can respond by validating their feelings and using a question or statement; is there a reason why you don’t want to go to school, do you want to talk about it, etc? Help them to learn that it is okay to feel the way they feel and to understand the difference between feelings and actions.

Thirdly, Sim encourages parents to ask, what do you most look forward to about going back to school? She adds:

“Remind your child what they liked about school, whether that’s a play area, an activity, something on the lunch menu, a specific teacher or a friend – and invite your child to draw or write down their thoughts. Also, give them something to look forward to at the end of the school day, a treat or home-based family activity they really enjoy.”

Explain the dos and don’ts for older children

The MOE encourages parents to discuss a list of routines that older children need to start, change or stop during Phase 1 of the post-circuit breaker period. This can include going straight home after school, minimising interactions with friends from other classes, reducing the time they spend on online gaming, and no sharing food with their classmates.

Continue to be cautious

The circuit breaker period may end on June 2, but everyone is reminded to take a controlled approach to resuming activities safely. So, always take your child’s temperature before school; if your children are feeling unwell, visit a doctor and stay home. If there are adult household members on home quarantine/Stay Home Notice or have flu-like symptoms (e.g. fever and cough), inform the school and keep your children at home.

The MOE offers this advice:

“If your children are travelling to school using the public transport, get them to set off for school a little earlier to help thin out the arrivals. If you are fetching your children after school, arrange to meet them further from the school gate to prevent crowding. And do remember to observe safe distancing while waiting for your children.”

Talk about your circuit breaker experience

Discuss the changes you and your family have experienced during the past two months and talk about the future.

The MOE says:

“Explain to your children that Singapore will exit the circuit breaker and resume activities safely over three phases. Discuss with them about how the family can make adjustments (e.g. travelling safely to school, new care arrangements) to transit into the next phase.”

Stick to a routine

After months of learning from home, going back to school means getting back into a school routine. The key advice from EtonHouse is to start getting your child back into a routine now by “regulating sleep routines prior to the reopening.”

Many parents are concerned about how their child will manage wearing a mask for an extended period of time, particularly pre-schoolers.

The MOE says:

“Help your child slowly get used to mask wearing by practising as a family (e.g. start by putting on the mask for 30 minutes each day and progressively increasing the duration). Also, provide a Ziploc bag for them to keep their mask in when they remove it for meals or PE lessons.”

Don’t worry about gaps in learning

After weeks of distance learning during the school closures, children will return to school having made varying degrees of academic progress. Schools will need to address any gaps in learning as children return to the traditional classroom. The key message to parents, though, is not to worry.

Keep up the family time

“Continue to bond as a family after school hours,” says EtonHouse. With schools closed and parents working from home, the past three months have given everyone more opportunities to spend time together as a family. Families are encouraged to maintain this stable home environment to help reduce student anxieties.

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