There has been a great deal of discussion and stress on how our children will return to school during the pandemic. Likely, their little ears have picked up on some, even too much, of the conversations.
Whether our children are returning to modified classrooms or doing their education online, we need to be aware of their mental health.
Between whatever they’ve heard and whatever they are anticipating, you can ease their anxiety with just a few measures. Here are some thoughts for your children’s mental health:
1 – Take Care of Yourself
Your attitude and mental health have an immense impact on your children. Discuss your feelings and concerns with your partner or friends out of children’s ear shot. Seek professional help if you want more emotional support.
2 – Talk About It
If your child isn’t talking about Covid-19, that doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it. Try to frame things in a positive way as much as possible. Also, prompt your child to simply listen to their concerns. Even if you don’t have the answers or solutions, they will feel better just having been listened to.
3 – Minimize Negative Input
Media coverage of the pandemic is prolific and sensational. As well, many casual conversations could be quite frightening to children. Keep them away from the news and such conversations. Actually, it’s good for you to avoid them too.
Reassure your kids that their parents, teachers, doctors and scientists are doing their best to take care of this situation. And of course tell them that this is a big test for all of us from Allah.
4 – Deep Breaths
It’s likely your children are acting out. This pandemic has been stressful for everyone. Dr. Cheryl Dodds, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and medical director of Atrium Health Behavioral Health – Davidson, explains how children may react to stress.
“Children might not be able to get work done, or they might have more temper tantrums or arguments,” says Dodds. “They might get frustrated by things not going the way they expect.”
Dodds suggests getting professional help from a doctor if the child’s anxiety seems acute or extreme.
5 – Be in The Know
You will likely receive new school regulation guidelines via email, or review your school and/or school district’s websites. Any sections that will be specifically required of your child, discuss with them well in advance of the first day. Your child will need reminders and regular discussion about the new school arrangements.
6 – Hygiene Heads Up
Continue to gently remind your child to practice good hygiene habits so that they aren’t a shock or overwhelming to them if they return to school or other group settings. Handwashing, wearing a mask, not sharing personal items and being watchful of touching their face are all standard practices.
7 – Back to School Shopping?
Back to school rituals – new clothes and supplies, special dinner the night before, whatever it is your family does, adapt or provide a new ritual. Rituals help children and even adults to have some comfort in transitioning. Some stationary supplies and organizers will reassure your child that this truly is back to school, just a little different.
8 – Routines
Especially if your child will be schooling at home, it is important to provide them with the structure and comfort of routines. Maintain standard bed, waking and meals times. Create new spaces in the routine where your child can organize themselves for the start of the school day, take breaks, and organize themselves for the following day.
9. Remember the Divine Power
In these hard times, we should maintain a strong relationship with Allah. We should ask Him for protection and put our full trust in Him.
“Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) told us to ‘tie our camel’ (take precautions first), and then rely on Allah to take care of the outcome.”
Teach your kids the true meaning of tawakkul by taking necessary precautions, making Dua and putting trust in Allah (SWT).
10 – It’s All Connected
Physical activity is good for everyone’s mental health. Even if your child is getting recess or physical education at school, you can do a little extra special work to address their mental health. Mindfulness exercises, such as meditations or yoga, will benefit both you and your child.
There are many YouTube videos of such exercises especially for children. Dodds suggests the following simple mindfulness exercise:
Mindful Popsicle Eating
“Eat a popsicle, focusing all your attention on it,” she explains. “As your thoughts drift, bring them back to the popsicle. Relax and take deep breaths as you eat it.”
Ultimately, try not to worry about going back to school. This is a phenomenal period that we are all in together. Reach out for support and support each other. Insha Allah it will pass and all will be revealed soon enough.