Child psychologist offers practical tips for kids contemplating return to classroom

Could some elementary school children be returning to schools in Spring? Many schools have applied for waivers to get kids back to in-person learning. Studies show classrooms can be safe if protocols are followed, but that doesn't stop some kids from worrying. You can help prepare your kids.

These days a different kind of bell signals the start of school. It's an alarm clock. Your child's bedroom has become their classroom, their study space and a safe place to socialize.

Now many school officials hope to have some of them returning to their schools in the weeks or months ahead. While many kids can't wait to get back, psychologists say after so long it's sure to cause some anxiety.

Pediatric psychologist Dr. Ethan Benore with Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital said you'll want to let young students know they're safe and that the school is making these changes to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

"Let them know what it's going to look like. What the changes are going to be? Not in a scary way, but in a matter of fact way," he said, "They're going to be doing temperature checks, people are going to be wearing masks, you may have some scheduled seating. Things are going to look a little bit different."

For example, you can explain that wearing a mask is a lot like having to wash your hands or looking both ways before crossing the street. Benore said it's also important to check in on a child's mental health during this time.

"If you're having these conversations regularly, it doesn't feel so weird when there is a problem. If you have a thought or a concern, ask, bring it up. If it's nothing, that's okay. But your child might feel even more comfortable if they come back to you two weeks later and there is something there," he said.

Benore said a lot of people are struggling right now. His advice to parents is to be sure to show compassion, not only with your own kids, but with their teachers too. Remember educators and their families are dealing with the same kinds of challenges.

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