Do you remember when “Sheltering, quarantine, masks, social-distancing and COVID19” were not a part of our daily vocabulary?
As the fourth month begins, we need to look to the needs of our children and the return of school. We have been seeing new behaviors such as bed-wetting, crying, temper tantrums, etc . in “normal” children who have been cooped up at home watching tv, playing computer games, engaging in inappropriate activities that do NOT include walking, playing outside, swimming, participating in sports, and engaging in healthy food consumption.
Schools and families are looking to August to plan the “back to school” routines. From my experience in child care, K-12 education, early childhood development and parenting/grandparenting, I recommend routine and support especially for preschool thru third grades. It seems to me that what our society needs now is an attempt at normalcy.
Teachers could be assigned their classroom families. We used to stagger enrollments so that students could become accustomed to the experience of school. Often, especially in Kindergarten, we would attend part day and then gradually increase to full day. Perhaps with COVID19 looming, schedules could begin 8-11 and lunch and then lunch 12-3 for the afternoon group. It would require changes of lunch schedules, but would initiate a regular pattern for our children who so desperately need routine. The goal would be to regain full day attendance.
Students would have temperatures taken before entering the classroom and if there is a fever, they would be sent home. Granted that would take coordination and communication, but with cell phones it is not impossible. For the non-working parents or those who are working at home, it would be easier. However for the low income whose jobs might be less stable with hours, child care would have to be available.
As a school administrator, I had been known to make special arrangements for families who have special needs. Teachers can be very creative in developing plans for support to families of all kinds. We now have fear of riots; anxiety about getting sick/dying; physical responses such as rashes, eye-ticks, unusual eating behavior; and general lack of personal control. Many students have become used to hours on the Internet and/or little physical exercise. The beginning of this process will be challenging for all.
Children and families thrive with routine. Vacations during the school year are often viewed as punishments rather than breaks for families. If proper nutrition and creative activities are not provided, children will not flourish. As a school administrator, I have encouraged Child Protective Services to bring children at risk to their home school to provide continuity and support when serious family issues arise. Certainly COVID19 has created many situations in which families are suffering from lack of income, limited activity, and increasing stress.
Parents need to return to work. Children must be given the foundation of structure and support found in our schools. Great care must be taken to develop these boundaries and plan for the gradual implementation of normalcy. Many teachers developed skills at providing online support. These skills will continue, but students NEED to go back to school.
BS UC Davis Child Development, MA ECE SF State, MBA UC Riverside, EDD Organizational Leadership