­It’s back to school time in Canada. But like everything this year – school is going to look a lot different. Cities and governments are announcing plans and they all differ. Be sure to check the rules and regulations in your area for all the details.

If your kids will be heading back to the classroom this Fall, this list of tips can help make sure they have a smooth transition back to school.

Go Over the Basics on How to Stay Healthy
Over the past few months, we’ve heard over and over again how important taking preventative measures are when it comes to staying safe from COVID-19. Regardless, it doesn’t hurt to go over some of the basics with your kids, especially the little ones, before they return to classes. It can offer a fresh opportunity to create healthy habits for the whole family, not just your kids. Remember to make it a calm conversation that doesn’t seem alarming or scary.

  • Hand Washing: remind kids to always wash their hands at school and home for at least 20 seconds or to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice. The Government of Canada has a great handwashing video for kids to watch!
  • Hand Sanitizer: this is a great option if your kids are not near a sink. However, young children should only use hand sanitizer with proper adult supervision, so make sure you only let your older ones use it on their own at school.
  • Masks: although masks are not mandatory in all schools, some areas of the country will require them on busses. This helps your kids protect others from potential spread of COVID-19. Make sure you show your kids how to properly wear a mask and never give a mask to anyone under two years old. 
  • Stay Home if Sick: if your child is feeling sick they should stay home. Let them know to be honest with you about how they’re feeling.

Start Having Conversations About School Now
Don’t wait until the day school starts to talk to your kids about going back - have these conversations as soon as possible. It will make things easier for the first day. It’s important to do this each year but especially during this unique time. Have a chat about what’s going to be different this year and how you and the teachers are working to make things as safe as possible. Try to remind them about all of the positives of going back to school like seeing their pals! Most importantly – ask them what they’re thinking about. Do they have concerns? Are they excited to go back? Opening up communication now will make talking about how they’re feeling easier throughout the school year.

Be Aware of Your Own Emotions
The pandemic has made everyday life stressful for almost everyone – especially parents. Balancing work, life and recently homeschooling can be a challenge. Kids returning to school may provide some relief but also added concern for kids and adults. As a parent, you may not even realize how your anxiety may be affecting your children, but do your best to be aware. It's proven that anxiety in parents can be a strong factor in childhood anxiety. Try to make sure you’re supporting your kids by not letting your stress weigh on them.

Establish A Back-To-School Routine
Things have been anything but routine lately but try to get back in the swing of things in preparation for the new school year. As the big day approaches, start to get yourself and your kids up around the time they would normally for school. Plan out some lunches and even drive by the school with your kids to check things out. You can make it fun! Go shopping for school supplies or some new outfits (safely, of course) to get in the back-to-school mode.

Check-In Throughout the School Year
As the school year kicks in, it will be important for you to check-in with your kids to see how they’re doing. Even if they seemed excited to get back to school, things can change quickly. Not all kids react the same way to stress and any number of things could be causing them anxiety – not just COVID-19. Some signs that your kid could be stressed are:

  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns;
  • Use of drugs or alcohol;
  • Irritability; and
  • Poor performance at school.

Try to do an activity with them where you can have a casual conversation about how they’re doing. Go for a walk, play a game or do a craft. Ask them about school and how they’re feeling about everything – and listen to their answers. If you think you or your family may need more resources there are lots of organizations in Canada that can help.

September will be a month of big changes for families across the country. Whether you are sending your children back to the classroom or not, back-to-school will be very different this year and your kids will need your support. As long as you make sure you’re having open conversations and looking out for one another’s physical and mental health, heading back to school should be a great social and learning opportunity for your kids.