Preparation for Post-Pandemic School Re-Integration

  • July 13, 2021
  • Pedro Olvera, Psy.D.

The upcoming year will be unlike any other.  Parents and caregivers should take the time to prepare their children as they re-integrate into their schools so as to minimize transition challenges that may be encountered. Coming out of a pandemic-impacted year it should come as no surprise that many children may not be emotionally ready or feel secure enough to undertake what for many may be considered the monumental task of attending school in person.

Understanding Students’ Experiences

As parents and caretakers, it is important to understand that children will experience several emotions and feelings that may result in hesitation or anxiety about returning to school. It’s important to understand some of the possible experiences that students have had in order to address them appropriately. Below are a few examples of what students may be experiencing.

Fears of COVID-19

Since the pandemic is not completely behind us and the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is gaining momentum, children may express fear or apprehension about going back to school and becoming infected.

Hesitation of Leaving their Comfort Zone

Many students grew accustomed to learning in the safety of their homes through remote and online modalities. Having to go back to school into a fully in-person learning setting may initially seem overwhelming and scary.  

Worries About Being Academically Behind

Since many children, culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) in particular, may not have had the same quality of access to their academic curriculum may consequently find that they may lag behind their peers.  Going to back school may seem intimidating without the appropriate support. 

Fears of Encountering a Different School Experience

Many children will go back to a school that will look completely different than it did prior to the pandemic.  Since that time, many children experienced home displacements, moving to another state, and perhaps their former teachers have transferred to another school or have left the teaching profession.  Students may feel a sense of loss with the changes that they may encounter when they enter school this fall.

Overall Feelings of Uncertainty

With the vast among of information available on social media and the news, children are constantly being exposed to news that may seem grim. For example, the fluidity of the virus’ spread, economic instability, and other negative societal factors.  This negative exposure may create feelings that schools may revert to virtual modalities and the feeling that their teachers, friends, and families may be in danger. 

How to Support Students

As mentioned above, parents and caregivers will need to take extra effort to create a sense of security and stability.  The good news is that they can support their children if they are experiencing any of the above mentioned thoughts or feelings.  The following tips may be helpful during the school reintegration process: 

Validation of Feelings

It is important for caregivers to validate their children’s anxieties and normalize their feelings. Normalizing their anxieties will help children understand that they are not alone and can help them feel understood.  

Discuss Health Protocols

Reminding children of social distancing, wearing their masks, and washing and regularly sanitizing their hands can help children practice healthy hygienic practices. This may help with concerns about contracting COVID-19.  

Preparation for the Upcoming School Year

It may be helpful to begin to prepare children for the upcoming year by engaging them in discussion about school. Discussing issues like what they are looking forward to, dialoguing about their favorite subjects, and visiting their school and role playing their first day can ease the transition. Some schools allow families to visit their classrooms and meet their teacher prior to the first day of school.

Limit Media Exposure and Correct and Misconceptions

Parents should limit media exposure and immediately correct any misinformation that the child may have been exposed to.  It is important keep information developmentally appropriate with age and grade level in mind. 

Model Behavior

Parents are the biggest influence in their children’s lives. Children observe how parents react to day-to-day occurrences and crises.  Parents should strive to model calmness during times of crisis.  

In summary, parents should keep in mind that school reintegration during the current pandemic can create anxiety and fears as student return to school. Parents should be mindful of their children’s behavior and be cognizant of any extreme changes including, but not limited to, changes in sleeping and eating habits, withdrawal from preferred activities, excessive fears, difficulties with concentration, behavioral regression, and/or thoughts of self-harm.  If any of the behaviors are observed, a mental health professional should be contacted. This upcoming school year can be a positive experience and an opportunity for children to learn healthy coping strategies that can help them be successful in life.  

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  1. Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
  2. National Association of School Psychologists (NASP):
  3. Kaiser Permanente
  4. Mayo Clinic:
  5. Chalk Beat:

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