Dear Ms. Lydia,
I really need some help…. My 10-year-old son used to love school! He got good grades, had lots of friends, and looked forward to going to school each day. Then the pandemic hit. After a year of remote learning, he went back to in-person school in September, and he hates it! It’s a daily battle to get him up and on the school bus each day. What is going on and how can I help him?
Christine M., Fredericksburg
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused so many deep-rooted issues across our country and the world. Everywhere you turn, there is a problem caused by the pandemic; the economy, unemployment, hate crimes, fear, anxiety, homelessness, learning loss … the list goes on and on. Now imagine your 10-year-old now must leave the safe harbor of your home and go out into a world of masks, distance, hand sanitizer, constant COVID testing, etc. He also may be struggling academically and subjects that used to be easy and fun are just not anymore. Understandably, he would want to just pull the covers over his head and wish the world away, but you, as the parent, cannot let that happen.
In a story from CNBC, they note two key points about learning loss because of the pandemic:
- More than half of public-school K-12 teachers said the pandemic resulted in a “significant” learning loss for students, both academically and in their social-emotional progress.
- Other research also shows distance learning has caused a significant setback in achievement, particularly among Black and Hispanic students and students with disabilities.
For these reasons, it is so important for all students, including your son, to get back into the classroom and get back to learning. Here are some tips:
- First and foremost, check with his teachers and see how he is doing academically. You need a clear picture of how he is doing before addressing his reluctance to go to school.
- Validate his feelings. Make sure that he knows that you understand how hard it must be to get back into the school routine after so long. Stay calm and try to stay positive without negating his feelings.
- Walk the fine line between telling him that school is safe, and he doesn’t need to be nervous about going back but also making sure that he is wearing a mask and keeping his distance. This can be confusing to a child; school is safe, but not really? Again, reassure and validate his feelings. A pandemic is confusing to everyone!
- Focus on things that he can control. Make sure his sleep routine is normal. He can help pack his lunch or pack his backpack. Allow him to pick out his outfit for the day. Small things can help him gain ownership of his anxiety.
- After school, allow him time to debrief. Don’t jump in with a million questions about his day, maybe go for a walk and give him the time to talk. Focus on the positives of the day. Tell him what you did while he was at school.
- Work together to make a list of the things he loved about school pre-pandemic. Try to figure out ways to make those things true again. Did he love doing homework with a buddy after school? Make that happen again. Did he love group projects in science class? Together, write an email to the teacher and see if that can happen again.
If the battle to get him to school persists, consider having him speak to a therapist. A therapist may help him better understand what it is about school that is causing his anxiety/reluctance to go to school.
Keep in mind that the world has changed. Things are not back to “normal” and may never be “normal” again. But being honest and open with your son about this will help him make the changes necessary to get back into a positive school routine and hopefully his love of learning will return.
I hope this helps and I wish you all the best!