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First: Talk to your child.
In a manner, considerate of their age and developmental level, explain the changes this school year brings. Class sizes are smaller, some of their friends may go to school on alternate days, teachers and students may be wearing masks. For children with autism or sensory processing disorders there may be sensory issues involving the smells of disinfectants or frequent hand washing.

Then stop and listen.
Calmly address your child’s specific fears.

Many children want to know when things will go back to normal.
Dr. Brando Tupaz, a Clinical Psychologist and adjunct professor at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio says, “Talk to your child at the appropriate developmental level, but be honest. We don’t know exactly how long this pandemic will last. But we do know that scientists and other professionals are working on treatments and a vaccine.”

Remember: Children want and need reassurance.
Certified EMDR Therapist and Music Therapist, suggests having children wear masks around the house. Her own children gradually increased the time they wore masks around the house, beginning with fifteen minutes and then increasing by five minutes every few days. DeFantis says, “Wearing masks at home develops their tolerance for wearing them and helps them get used to seeing themselves and each other in a mask. The more we as adults normalize the wearing of masks and social distancing, the better we can help our kids adjust.” For little ones, consider having your child’s favorite stuffed animal or doll wear a mask too.

Create Calming Rituals.
All children need predictable routines. Routines are familiar and they make us feel safe, especially in these uncertain times. Although it is easier said than done, try to keep your child’s bedtime and morning wake-up routines the same.
Like routines, rituals are a daily practice, but they are intentional and meant to bring a sense of peace and harmony into the day. A soothing ritual might be using aromatherapy at bath time or listening to a special song when getting ready for school. A calming ritual before or after school might be blowing bubbles and watching worries float away.
Even though you may be working from home and trying to manage remote learning, try to spend time doing fun things with your children: reading before bed, taking a nature walk or continuing with family game nights. Activities like these, that children enjoyed before the pandemic, are comforting because they are familiar. Family time relaxes children.

By Janis D. Gioia, MA Ed. and Elise C. Gioia