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How to Prepare Kids to Return to In-Person Learning

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The University of Kentucky Public Relations & Strategic Communications Office provides a weekly health column available for use and reprint by news media. This week's column is by Meghan Marsac, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist at Kentucky Children’s Hospital.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 8, 2021) – Returning to school will bring out different feelings in different kids. Some might be very excited and others quite nervous. Many will likely have mixed feelings. Some kids might be nervous about seeing their classmates or teachers, especially if your family has had very limited contact with others over the past year. 

It might take some time for kids to get used to new rules or expectations at school. The workload might change, which can take time to adjust to. The distractions will be different and there will be longer periods of instruction, more than what your child might have become accustomed to.

Here are some tips to promote adjustment as your child settles back into their in-person learning routine:

  • Give your child and yourself time to adjust to a new routine.
  • Validate your child’s feelings of nervousness or sadness or excitement. 
  • Expect that everyone might be more tired than normal during the first few weeks. Consider planning low-key evenings and limiting extra activities as your child adjusts.
  • Set aside 15 minutes with your child in the evening to listen to their day. Let them know you are available even if they don’t feel like sharing. 
  • Create extra space for hugs or snuggles, especially for young children. 

Things to watch out for:

  • Increased irritability
  • Child withdrawing or isolating self
  • Anger or frustration outbursts
  • Change in appetite
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Ongoing challenges separating. Drop-off might be hard for a couple of days. For most kids, they will adapt quickly after parents have left or within a couple of days. 

Keep in contact with your child’s teacher; they may be seeing behavior in your child that you don’t see at home. If you are worried about anything that seems different or off in your child, reach out to your pediatrician, school counselor or a behavioral health provider.  

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