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How to prepare our children for back to school

By Ruth Munene | January 5th 2021 at 14:17:45 GMT +0300

A student aboard a public vehicle destined for Central Kenya at Tea room bus stage in Nairobi [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

The Covid­­­­-19 season has been a season like no other; full of uncertainty, challenges, pains and losses. For most of us, the future is unclear but we can no longer continue to sit and watch things unfold. We have to take charge of our lives once again; embrace the changes that have come with the pandemic, wear a positive attitude and begin to rebuild the broken walls of our lives or set new foundations where need be. Napoleon Hill says; “Every adversity, every failure, and every heartache, carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.”  Let the challenges we have faced during this pandemic energize us to spring back with greater vigor and willpower to rebuild our lives.

One of the areas that has been adversely affected by the pandemic is the education sector. Majority of the children have been away from formal learning for more than eight months. The new academic year has started and it is going to be quite different for the learners, parents, teachers and education stakeholders. Back to school is always a time of transition and with the pandemic, it is a transition that is going to require extra preparation as all the parties make adjustments to the new life with the coronavirus.

Here are some 7 tips on how to prepare our children for back to school:

Have purposeful dialogues with your child

This is something that we sometimes take for granted and most parents will sit a child on the eve of resuming school to bombard them with instructions on how to behave at school rather than hearing from them. This time we have to engage them in purposeful dialogues. Get to know the child’s fears as they resume back to school. Let them express their feelings; both positive and negative. Find out what they know about Covid-19 and take time to correct any misconceptions. Talk to them with their age in mind. Make it as simple as possible for the young ones. Listen to their concerns. Hear from them how well prepared they are for the changes. Explain to them the importance of taking precautions. Begin to teach them how to wear a mask properly, how to wash their hands keenly, what it means to keep social distance and any other precautions you feel they need to understand. What is obvious to you may not be obvious to them. Some of our children have not worn masks since the pandemic began because they have been at home. I have heard my children often say that they can’t breathe properly after spending a day with a mask. Some will find it difficult to wear masks especially while playing and running. Let the children understand that if they care about themselves and their schoolmates and teachers, they will need to take the necessary precautions.  

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Let the children begin to practice their school routine.

Most schools and especially in the public sector spent only a few weeks or months trying to keep the children busy with school work through online channels. Parents at some point also got tired of supervising personal study and paying for online classes or any form of tuition. Behavioral theorist B. F. Skinner says that all human behavior is learned, thus all behavior can be unlearned and new behaviors learned in their place. Most children will need to unlearn some of the habits they have learned over the long break that are not in line with their school routine. Their study habits will need to be relearned. Slowly, they need to begin to practice their school routine. For example, have them wake up early, let them practice the meals routine and stay up reading till the time their school night studies end. 

Do their ‘back to school’ shopping in good time

Do not wait until the last minute to do back-to-school shopping for your children. Most children have outgrown their school uniforms and they need to be replaced. Others have lost some of their books and stationery. Find out from them if what they left at school is safe and find out what they may need to be replaced. We will need to sacrifice to ensure our children have adequate school shopping. They have enough to deal with already and we do not want to weigh them down further.

Find out from your child’s school what the ‘back to school’ requirements are

As parents and guardians, let us be proactive in finding out the back-to-school requirements. Some schools may require parents to clear fees balances and probably pay all the school fees for the new term. Being proactive gives you enough time to plan for the payment or make a payment plan with the school management. Reduce anxiety and frustrations by planning early. There may also be other requirements as far as keeping Covid-19 at bay is concerned. Find out and prepare in good time.  

Keep watch over your own attitude

“A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.” – Wade Boggs. As a parent, your attitude concerning the resumption of school, the Covid-19 pandemic, the economic struggles, the child’s issues, the child’s school and in general all issues of life will determine the child’s preparedness for school both physically and emotionally. Children copy a lot from adults and they can copy almost everything including our attitude. If you are anxious, they will notice and it will make them more afraid. If you talk negatively about what they are likely to expect, their new school calendar or the condition back at school that may not be so compliant with the new requirements, if you magnify the effects of Covid-19 pandemic then you will send a worried and anxious child back to school.

If possible, get your child a counselor to speak to them

Most children do not know what to expect once they go back to school. A counselor will come in handy to prepare them for school and to reassure them that all will be fine. Some children have lost loved ones over the pandemic, others have gone through traumatizing events like physical and sexual abuse, and others have had tremendous body changes that they might be embarrassed about. Some are struggling with lifestyle adjustments as guardians and parents have lost jobs and other sources of livelihood. A counselor will be able to walk them through these challenges and also pick signs of stress and anxiety, sadness, worry, anger, agitation, confusion or feelings of being overwhelmed and advice if the child needs extra support.


Ruth Walya Munene is a Counseling Psychologist, Educationist and Career Counselor at Machakos University. She can be contacted through the email: [email protected]

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