The world has been forced to face a new reality; a reality that has caused loss, change, confusion, hurt, and death. The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to change in ways we never have previously considered. While attempting to adjust, parents face scary decisions in order to keep their children safe. The decision to have your child attend school or continue on with distance learning is not one that comes easily. How are they affected socially? Are schools prepared? How should parents handle distance learning? So, we are forced to consider all of the impacts your decision for your child may have.
While children attend regular schooling, the academics are not the only crucial impact. There is a major social component to the in-person attendance of school. School routines help keep children anchored. The structure of a routine helps in the brain formation as they develop into responsible adolescents. The rhythm of having attending school, mingling with classmates, and getting a solid education prevents the regression and worsening of psychiatric symptoms. Socialization is the building blocks of skill development in children. Socialization works to combat loneliness and works as a buffer from stress and depression. Humans are social animals- we require human contact to become indoctrinated with the rules and skill to belong to this tribe.
Furthermore, much of the student bodies around the country must have special considerations for their children with disabilities. These children are more susceptible to the harm distance learning has the potential to create. When you consider students with Autism, a social disorder that requires social relations for progress, socialization IS the therapy. Attending school helps children with Autism learn the nuances of social skills. Their need for routine is essential to prevent anxiety, while socialization works towards language development. ADHD and other learning disorders rely tremendously on structure, routine, and rhythm. Engagement in the classroom is vital in their efforts to learn; human interaction is what increases their engagement. Learning disorders have a deep need for stimulation, and without it children will become impulsive, provocative, and argumentative. Children with psychiatric disorders are at risk of becoming very vulnerable. Research in China and Korea has shown worsening symptoms of disorders due to the quarantine procedures.
For the developmental stages children encounter, attending school is very important. Of course attending school in person is not an option for every student; so, distance learning must be done correctly. For the milestone grades that are considered significantly harder (6th grade and up) distance learning can seem torturous in their intimate learning. School is such a vital part of students’ lives. Rates of violence in homes have increased, due to children not being in school. Teachers are our frontline in recognizing violence in the home, so how do we monitor this now? The change in our lives is forcing us to adapt and develop skills that we have not ever had to practice before. The standards become immensely confusing for both the student and the school staff.
So, how can you be sure you’re making the correct decision? First, consider any special health conditions your child has and also health issues in your home. If attending school will compromise their health or someone’s health in your family, consider ways to stimulate their socialization while still attending school at home. Do you visit grandparents or at-risk family members often? Implementing a two-week quarantine before seeing those susceptible to the illness is a way to be sure you keep your loved ones safe, should you chose to send your child to school. Determine any special needs your child may have and how this decision will affect their health, well being, or developmental needs. These all combine to contribute to their livelihood, and should be taken seriously. Research should be done independently to check your city’s local rate of COVID-19.
Additionally, what plans have your child’s school made? Each school should have a contingency plan should someone in the class get sick. Appropriate distancing must be enforced in all areas of the school; this includes hallways traffic, lunchtime restrictions, and carpool pickup. Has the school created resources for parents who chose for their child to attend distance learning? Children should be given resources to ensure the same level of education they would be receiving in person. Schools should be going to the greatest lengths to train their teachers in this adaptation. This could lead to the need to get creative. Teachers must find a way to keep children engaged, stimulated, and socialized. Engaging material includes resources such as Sesame Street and Rosetta Stone, just to name a couple. Be sure your school has done the appropriate research in developing their school agendas.
If attending school is not an option for your child, do not be discouraged! There are precautions you can take to promote your child’s learning experience at home. Contact your local provider and strengthen your WiFi signal at home. If your children have the ability to learn without lags in their signal, they are less likely to become discouraged. Your child should learn in a private room that does not allow for distraction. Parents know their child better than anyone else, so consider ways in the past that have helped them to learn. Use your past experiences, and don’t be afraid to get creative. Learning pods are one of many ways you can bring creativity to your distance learning experience. In the pods, parents can create small groups with an adult leader who is good with kids. The pods can be cooperative with the child’s friends, thus, promoting socialization. Distance learning can still be effective, if planned well with good materials. Parent’s should use as many resources as they see fit; be flexible and do not hesitate to reach out to your child’s teacher or school for help.
If your child’s school does not have the answers to questions about making school safe, or what resources they have available for distance learning, then they are not ready. Keep your child at home for nine weeks until they become ready. Please refer to our extensive list of questions you should ask your school. Think about the long run; think in years terms about what your child needs; their needs will change as they develop. Assess your child’s needs and their adaptation throughout the year. Keep note of this, because there is no way for us to know when this pandemic will stop forcing us to change. Stay safe and healthy, and determine what is best for your child.
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