As in-person schooling marches on, and the school year carries our children to greater heights, now is a good time to check in on your little learner! Over the past two years, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, children have been dealt a hard hand: the COVID-19 virus itself, less time with friends, and a year (or more) of missing classroom time. With many schools reopening, children may have some difficulty readjusting to in-person learning.
Less social interactions and more time at home may cause difficulty in resuming in-person classes with the same standard of mental presence and effort as prior to the pandemic. Checking in with your child is the best way to assess their motivation and mental health levels and offer unwavering support.
First, take note of your child’s behavior. What have you noticed since the school year started? Is your child happy with their teacher and peers? How do they talk about their assignments and course load? Answering these questions can be a good indicator of where your child stands on their academic track.
Some dissatisfaction is normal. Expressing excitement about classes but lackluster enthusiasm over a teacher is also a typical response. But if it seems like your child is uninterested in any aspect of school, they are likely struggling to readapt to a full-time, in-person school schedule.
Once you’ve gauged your child’s motivation level, talk with them about the new normal. Share and empathize with them over the tasks you both face on a daily basis. Help them realize it’s okay to feel upset, confused, and even question things. Some disconnection is okay. COVID-19 has changed the way children see life—for better and worse.
It is also important for children to understand and rationalize why we do the things we do. Explain the benefits of school, as well as how work helps you support the family. Doing so will help avoid confusion and ease the separation anxiety some children may experience.
Help your child find a routine that fits. Perhaps they need to come home and immediately complete their homework. Or, they might benefit from a snack, some TV, and a quick nap before homework and dinner. With siblings, commit to helping each child figure it out individually. Most importantly, let them know they aren’t alone.
Find small rewards that your kid will want to work for! Incentives might include a milkshake on Fridays after school, seeing a movie of their choice for good marks, or treating them to a toy at the end of each month for completing their assignments. Teaching a child healthy incentives is a lifelong lesson they’ll carry with them from schooling to a career. (Adults use incentives all the time: coffee or tea to lure ourselves out of bed, a favorite panini on our lunch break, etc.)
Children’s mental health has been severely impacted by the pandemic. Adults can help children balance and ground themselves as they reacquaint with in-person reality. Above all, our children need support and love during this transitional time.