News & Press

WGXA's interview on Preparing your child for a COVID-19 school year

MACON, Ga. -- With the first day of school around the corner, some kids may be feeling anxious about heading back to class during a pandemic. 

According to Danielle Fish, an Associate Professional Counselor and the Outpatient Services Supervisor at River Edge Behavioral Health, the best way to help mentally prepare your child for the changes they could see in their classroom is to have open communication with them. 

Everyone feels nervous or fearful when starting something new. She says the more children know about what their school day will look like the less nervous they will feel.

"Uncertainty creates a lot of anxiety. As soon as you have the information talk to them about what's going to happen and what to expect," Fish says.

If your child hasn't asked any questions or expressed any concern about the upcoming school year, Fish says it's OK to ask them first. She says kids are paying attention even if it seems like they aren't.

She wants to assure parents that initiating the conversation won't create anxiety. "They're thinking about it. Whether they're concerned or not depends on the kid." 

Fish says not to worry about your child being too young to talk about the modifications to schools.

She suggests that it may be more important to have this conversation with younger or elementary-age children. The first day of school could be confusing or even scary, if they're unaware of how the environment has changed. 

However, adjusting to the new normal may be more difficult for high school students. "So much of their world is peer-driven. Now, some of their friends are going to be doing virtual learning. So they might not see their friends."

Fish says while talking to your teen about heading back to school this year, it's important to validate their feelings. "Just saying 'I get it.' A lot of times that's all that kids want to hear." 

She also recommends helping them find the silver lining in what they may see as a negative situation. 

The counselor says try to continue these conversations after the first day. How students are feeling prior to the start of school, could change after experiencing it first hand. Don't worry about inquiring too often, Fish says when your child is tired of you asking, they'll tell you. 

Depending on what school district your child is a part of, they may have the option of a hybrid in-person/virtual model or totally virtual option.

Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended kids return to in-person classes because of the socialization that they receive from being in school.

Danielle Fish explains that socialization is more than just having fun, it's how kids learn about manners and how to interact with people.

Developing social skills inside of a socially distant classroom may look different, but Fish doesn't believe it will be largely impacted.

Opting for a virtual model can make gaining these skills complicated, especially during a time where other resources are closed or also virtual.

She suggests scheduling play dates for after school or weekends and interacting more with extended family.

All students have endured a lot of change within the last 5 months, primarily with the abrupt end to their school year. Fish believes your little ones can handle it, "Kids deal with changes a lot better than we give them credit for," she says.

While masks and social distancing requirements may make the school year look different, heading back will return some much-needed structure and routine to their lives.