When I was a little girl, a new school year came with some guarantees: a new dress, new shoes, new pencils and some excited sleepless nights. This new school year is teeming with uncertainty instead of familiar guarantees and expectations. In the face of this uncertainty, here are some strategies to help your children feel more peaceful and prepared.
- Trust and pray. Explain to your children that the people in charge of their school are studying, preparing and doing absolutely everything they can to make sure school is a safe and healthy place. This is a tough task, so be sure to pray as a family for those making these difficult decisions.
- Careful conversation. As you process the new protocol and guidelines, talk through your concerns and questions with your spouse or other adults. Your worries and doubts and frustrations need to be processed, but they are not for little ears. If you approach things with peace and hope and trust, so will your children. If you demonstrate respect for the leaders trying diligently to keep your kids safe and healthy, so will they.
- Make a list. If your child is worried or nervous about going back, make a list of all the reasons why. Often times just talking about them brings peace, and it allows you to bring truth to misunderstandings.
- Empower them. Make sure your kids know there are things they can do to protect themselves and others, such as coughing and sneezing into their elbow and properly washing their hands. Teach them to scrub as long as it takes to say an Our Father, and remind them that they can say those Our Fathers for the intention of specific people or situations.
- Check in. Take time each day to check in with your kids. Since their days will most likely be sprinkled with new routines and practices, you can ask them about something funny, something weird and something that made them wonder, or simply ask them for a high and a low from their day.
- Inform and prepare. Share the ways school will be different. If their day starts with a temp check, let them experience that. Give them all the information you can, and practice what it feels like to wear a face covering and stand six feet apart as they wait in line, as those things may be required. The more variables you can prepare them for before school starts, the more peaceful they will feel when they get there.
- Pray. Pray with your kids for a new school year blessed with health and safety for teachers and friends. Pray for your children, especially if they are feeling anxious about the uncertainty. This is the perfect time to get them a patron saint medal to wear. St. Michael the Archangel would be a great choice. If you don’t already, begin the practice of blessing each of your children on the way out the door to school by tracing a cross on their forehead with holy water and remind each other to call on the protection of our guardian angels.
Sheri Wolfert is a Catholic school teacher, speaker, writer and founder of Joyful Words Ministries. Sheri blogs at www.joyfulwords.org.