Now that many parts of the country are reopening and kids are going back to preschool or daycare, how do we prepare them for the “new norm”? This isn’t just a regular transition. Children are facing new challenges brought on by the pandemic surrounding health and safety, social distancing and separation anxiety from being away from their parents again – maybe for the first time in months.
After being at home together so long, it’s possible your child (and you) have some apprehension about having them return to the classroom. You’re not alone (yes, you’re probably sick of hearing we’re all in this together, but it’s true). Here are some ways you can ease their anxiety and help them transition back to a pre-pandemic schedule.
Find out what your preschool is doing to keep children safe and what new rules they need to follow. Ask if there’s a new drop-off routine and try to prepare them for your departure if you can’t accompany them into the building.
Right now, they may need more than quick reassurance. Listen closely to your child’s worries and respond to their questions to help them feel safe. Let them know they’re not alone and a lot of people are feeling the same way. Reinforce the benefits of rules that are being put in place (like social distancing) to help protect them.
Toddlers can’t always use language to fully verbalize their feelings so pay close attention to nonverbal messages. Your child may act out by being clingy, shy or more defiant than usual. They may even revert back to babyish behaviors. This could require a little more patience and encouragement on your part.
Help your child come up with ways to deal with any concerns they may have. If they’re feeling separation anxiety, suggest bringing something special to the classroom they can keep close, like a favourite toy or stuffed animal. It will bring him or her comfort and act as a reminder of you.
Regular bedtime and wake up times will help your child get back to a “new normal” faster. Consider starting a new good-bye routine to help prepare your child for when you leave.
Acting out some daily routines like outdoor playtime, having “circle time” and reading books about everyday habits like handwashing can help get your child readjusted.
Try to avoid worrying in front of your child. Toddlers are sensitive to your reactions and can pick up on your energy. As long as you maintain a positive attitude, they’ll feel love and support from you at a time when they need it most.
Although you can never completely predict what it will be like for your child when they return to preschool or daycare, there are ways you can help prepare them a little better for the experience.
While you’re busy preparing your child, trust that daycare centres and preschools are taking the proper precautions and going above and beyond to help children adapt to new safety measures; from creative ways to maintaining physical distancing to daily health checks.
Some of these efforts include:
For extra peace of mind, see what the experts say about creating a safe environment for children as they head back to a more “regular” routine. It may take a little getting used to but you and your child will get through the transition. You’ve got this.