Healthy Living: Mentally preparing to send kids back to school

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It has been a long, challenging year for students and parents struggling to make at-home learning part of their everyday life. Now, life as we know it is changing again with the return of in-person instruction.

Dr. Jim Polo is the Executive Medical Director with Regence and he says it is an exciting time for kids and parents, but there are some things to be mindful of.

"Change can be hard especially since school will likely not be the same as it was before," Dr. Polo said.

Governor Jay Inslee clearing the way for kids to head back to school in some capacity across our state. A lot of families have gotten used to doing life and school a bit differently during this pandemic. Dr. Polo says it is extremely important for parents to remember that kids have been under a tremendous amount of stress over the past year.

There are some things you can do to prepare yourself and the students in your life.

First, Dr. Polo says, "Know your school district's plan. Some schools will have a mixture of on-site and virtual learning and many will have staggered schedules so that not too many children are attending school at the same time."

Dr. Polo says another thing you should do to help with the transition is to adjust your schedule and routine to account for your kids' needs because chances are, you have been waking up and sending them to an area in the house to complete their work, now you will need to get them back to their school building.

The next thing Dr. Polo says you can do is keep your attitude in check, "Change can be hard and create anxiety, so if you’re anxious, your kids might be too, but if you look at it from a positive perspective your children will likely see it the same way."  

Here are some things Dr. Polo says you can do to help prepare your kids. He says talk to your kids and be sure to validate their feelings because even though it is an exciting time for many, they may still have some concerns or even fears,  "Remind them that going back to school is really about their education, there will be rules to follow, and they will be safe... Kids are going to be expected to mask, practice social distancing and maintain their hand-hygiene."  

Dr. Polo says for younger kids it may be important to practice wearing a mask for a longer period of time. It might be beneficial to physically show them the changes, like where they will be dropped off or picked up. For older kids, the differences go far beyond mask-wearing,

"Manage their expectations. Even though school will be back in session, athletics and extra-curricular activities may not be. So make sure that they know what will be different when they go back to school."  

Dr. Polo says to remember to approach these changes with compassion for yourself, your kids and teachers as everyone is doing their best right now. Because there may be some emotions that crop up over the next couple of weeks, make sure you are checking in on your school-aged kids throughout this transition. 

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