Easing kids back to school: Singapore reopens to new normal

It could be tough for some kids to transition back to school after Covid-19, but there are ways parents can help them cope.
PHOTO: Facebook/Ministry of Education, Singapore

This term of back-to-school after the lockdown may have different reactions from children. After staying home for long, some of them may be eager to join their peers. But many kids may be stressed about restarting the routine life again.

Why is back-to-school unsettling?

In making students and pupils head back to school from June 2 onwards, Singapore has displaced its usual June vacations. This comes after a forced vacation due to the circuit breaker period.

This lockdown has given Singapore the longest school break in a long time. Thus, kids have had to settle in a stay-in regime that may be difficult to shake off.

The new normal for them has been to hang around in the house, wearing masks and sanitisers if out and avoiding their favourite hangouts and parks.

These conditions which they will have to unlearn come on top of the usual back-to-school worries that kids have after a long break. There may be fears about being teased, feeling isolated or about teachers and exams.

The older kids and teens, on the other hand, may have qualms about mental health, study issues, peer pressure and stress.

Transition back to school after Covid-19: Singapore braces itself

It could be tough for some kids to transition back to school after Covid-19, but there are ways parents can help them cope. PHOTO: Facebook/Ministry of Education, Singapore

Singapore's Ministry of Education has announced specific measures that schools must take when they reopen.

  • Secondary 4 and 5, and Primary 6 graduating cohorts will attend schools on weekdays.
  • Weekly rotation between classroom teaching and online teaching for other cohorts.
  • Assumption Pathway School, North Light School and preschools will stagger their reopening over a period of 7 days.
  • Safety measures of handwashing, social distancing, face masks and shields must continue for students and teachers.
  • Cleaning, staggering and social distancing to continue in common areas and canteens.
  • Distanced seating in classrooms.
  • Safe and separate entry and exits, and strict temperature/health checks.
  • Staggered entry/exit and staggered timings wherever applicable.
  • Suspension of cross-class activities and cross-deployment of staff.

Supporting kids back to school

This transition from prolonged stay-at-home to a new school regimen, with the new do's and don'ts, may cause apprehension and anxiety. Here are some things you need to do to help your children settle down comfortably.

Acknowledge their worries and uneasiness

Your child might be worried about the new instructions. They may feel insecure about friends and teachers. They may even worry about getting sick. Accept their concerns.

Assure them that they are not alone in this experience. Tell them it is normal to get worried but together you will brave it.

Get them into the groove

Set a morning routine. Keep your plan close to the school-going schedule. Ease children into these new habits gradually. Starting this back-to-school regimen as soon as possible will get them into the groove. Keep the instructions clear, basic and simple.

Well-defined, easy steps will take away resistance as well as anxiety. You may consider rewarding every successful implementation of the rules.

Be strict about morning and bedtime practice. Set time limits for night-time activities to ensure adequate sleep.

Change the focus to having a sense of belonging to the school

Talk about school. Help them network with school peers. Provide support around schoolwork and technology usage. Reassure them about your care.

Show interest in school activities and academic requirements to develop a positive attitude towards school.

Provide a structured schedule to assist the completion of work

PHOTO: Unsplash 

Kids feel secure under structured rules that they can fit into. Guarantee a supportive atmosphere for work completion. Homework is a major cause of stress for most school-going children.

Keep the motivation levels high with positive feedback and encouragement. Simultaneously, keep their energy levels high with timely nutritious snacks.

Pay attention to indications of stress

The very young cannot communicate their anxiety verbally. Look for non-verbal cues such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, clinginess or restlessness. For older kids, negotiations to avoid activities or too many 'what-ifs' may be a sign of anxiety.

Teenagers may find it even more difficult to openly express worry. Watch out for anger, withdrawal or restlessness. You may need to reach out to them.

Encourage open communication and queries

PHOTO: Unsplash 

Some schools may provide transition information. If they do not, contact the school to get the same. Share with the children whatever communication you have received from the school.

Let them ask questions and help them clear any doubts.

Again, assure them of your support. Let them know that you are open to all discussions.

Finally, restrain your anxiety

Keep your own worries under control as our anxiety may get transmitted to our kids. Even if they do not always comprehend the source of the unease, they can interpret the subtle cues.

Teachers are there to help too

Don't forget teachers are available at the other end to meet your kids' back-to-school needs. 

Most teachers have gone through discussion sessions to map out the plan for the restart of schools under changed guidelines.

A welcoming and secure environment in the school will soon help kids settle to the new programme.

With the right kind of support, commendation and trust, kids can smoothly transition into this new, confusing phase.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.

This article was first published in theAsianparent.