Raising North Dakota: Preparing your child for a school year filled with uncertainty

Good Day Dakota

Kids are filled with questions and they want black and white answers.
And when it comes to school, most questions are easy to answer, but not when those questions come in the midst of a pandemic.

In this segment of Raising North Dakota, Alysia Huck shares with us how to prepare our kids for a school year filled with unknowns.

This upcoming school year will be a unique, challenging year for students, teachers, administrators, and parents alike.

And instead of asking if there will be more homework this year, our kids are asking questions like “Will I have to wear a mask in class,” “will they send us home like they did last time,” and “can I hug my friends and teachers?”

These are all scenarios we have to prepare our kids for.
Pam Sagness is the director of the Behavioral Health Division (NDDHS) and says that while the conversation will be different at every age, there is one positive train of thought to keep in mind.

“I think some of it is having there be what they can do versus what they can’t,” explains Sagness, “especially when we’re talking about children the age you’re discussing. It’s easy to say ‘don’t do this, don’t do that,’ but if we don’t create patterns and behaviors that are a replacement for that, it’s really difficult to figure out what that is.”

Some of those replacement behaviors might include a fun wave or elbow bump instead of a hug or handshake.

And it also helps to put a positive spin on situations such as lunch … eating lunch in the classroom is really like having a picnic with your friends every day.

Sagness also suggests what one might consider a “rehearsal” of sorts, a couple of weeks before the start of school.

“So I actually think walking through scenarios and saying ‘okay, this is the way the first week is going to go. I’m going to drop you off, you’re going to put your mask on, and when you go to the classroom there’s going to be other people with masks on, and maybe some won’t, and the teachers might,'” says Sagness. “And you kind of walk through the actual scenarios and kind of talk about what it might look like, and that’s where you’re going to learn what their questions are, and also kind of what their fears are.”

There are also skillsets we can teach our kids before school, such as setting our expectations around handwashing: how often, when to use hand sanitizer, and how to use how sanitizer.

“I think as a parent it’s comforting to know that you can kind of build that skillset before they’re in a room with fifteen other kids and everybody is trying to do that together,” says Sagness.

And together, Sagness says we can best prepare our kids by listening, talking about the different scenerios they might experience this school year, and being honest.

This really just touches the surface when it comes to preparing a child to go back to school in the midst of a pandemic.

Click here for a list of tips and helpful information to prepare your child for a school year like no other.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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