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Preparing Your Child to Go Back to In-Person School

Preparing Your Child to Go Back to In-Person School

Who could have foreseen that the world we knew and lived in would be upended so drastically? 

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we lead our day-to-day lives and bombarded us with new social norms, giving way to the new normal– lockdowns, frequent sanitizing, social distancing, wearing masks, work from home and online learning.

Of all the ways the pandemic disrupted life, school education was one of the worst hit. Classrooms became virtual screens, and in-person learning became non-existent overnight. For almost two years since the pandemic, children were removed from the physical environs of their schools. Face-to-face interactions with classmates and teachers, development of social and emotional skills, learning of arts and sports also took a back seat, all of which made it all the more clearer how important in-person schooling really is. Not to mention, screentime became a given, through school, and as an avenue to keep them busy, since helpless caregivers may be working from home. 

Recently many schools in the country have begun re-opening in a phase-wise manner; the move is welcomed, but met with a lot of concerns from caregivers.  The worries are not misplaced since a large populace still remains unvaccinated and inoculation of children awaits a go ahead from the public health department. 

The bigger, yet less talked about concern is, how do we help kids prepare to return to in-person school. A child at home with a laptop is, in effect, the only child in class. 2 years of this, plus being in the comfort of one’s own home, and not having any interaction with peers, positive ones like playing and sharing, not so positive ones like fights and spats, not so much of use of masks and distancing.. It's quite a responsibility we are putting on these kids!

So how do we prepare the kids mentally for the transition back to school?

  • Don’t expect a change overnight

The child has been in a protective bubble, at home, with caregivers for almost 2 years now. Some resistance to being 1 among many kids in class, and some resentment for no longer getting that attention level from authority figures is expected, and normal. Talk to them about it, focus on the positives (like having lunch with their friends).

  • Show them reality of the pandemic, and use it reinforce good habits

This is applicable to slightly older children. Please help them understand the infectious nature of the virus, how it spreads, and it’s mutations. Make it a science lesson. Use this to reinforce habits like handwashing, safe distancing, mask wearing etc.

  • Keep communication channels open to help with anxiety

Children can have many anxieties around new rules, reflecting their caregiver’s misgivings, the dangers of the virus and of catching the infection. Be honest and calm about the reality of the infection, and be the correct source of your child’s information. Monitor channels of communication that may indulge in scaremongering. Ask your child how they are feeling, and to be open about their fears. Be their safe space.



Image courtesy NUH
  • Get back into routine

Nothing works better than to get back into the school routine. Wake up at the designated time, breakfast, studies, lunch, some playtime or activities, homework, dinner and sleep. Children thrive on routine. A routine, some sense of stability will help them feel supported in these wild times.

  • Be flexible

Understand that these are unprecedented times. Nothing is certain. As caregivers, be flexible and give them some control on their life. If there is a day when they REALLY don’t want to go to school, let it be. Cut them some slack. It’s really alright.

  • Show them healthy ways to cope

Encourage interests like drawing, painting, baking, writing in a journal to provide them an outlet for their feelings and as a healthy way to cope. Best case, it’s a brand new hobby!

And finally, the basics:

  • Normalise wearing masks 
As per WHO, fabric masks are recommended to prevent onward transmission in the general population in public areas and in areas of possible community transmission such as school grounds. Caregivers must teach children the importance of effectively wearing masks and set an example by practicing the habit themselves. Masks must be labeled to avoid mixing, and children to be discouraged from exchanging them, despite friends having the pattern they want! Proper handling of masks, washing of hands after contact with mask are things you can start doing at home to model.

  • Social Distancing
WHO advisory states that a minimum 1-meter distance must be maintained between students. Caregivers may need to check in on schools’ ways of implementing social distancing through smaller groups of children, desks spaced out in class, shields on the desks, the school’s mask policy, staff vaccination status, deploying more buses, encouraging sanitary habits, quarantine zones for anyone showing symptoms etc.

  • Clean and sanitized hands

Washing hands at regular intervals with soap or using a good sanitizer can reduce the risks of spreading or contracting the virus. Children must be given demonstration and practice on keeping their hands clean by washing them for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, especially before and after eating, coughing/sneezing, or adjusting a face mask. CDC recommends a fun trick that may help younger children to maintain the recommended duration - Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice. 

Children must be taught to follow good hand hygiene, cover their nose and mouth with elbows while coughing and sneezing and then washing their hands or using with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol content. It is best to keep reminding them not to touch their, eyes, nose and mouth to foster protective hygiene habits. 


  • Warning symptoms
When children are exposed to environments outside the safe confines of home it is important to be watchful about their health. Do not send your child to school if you observe early signs of COVID-19 and consult your healthcare provider immediately

  • High nutrient diets
Studies have shown that intake of a nutrient rich diet boosts the immune system that protects us from the attacks of deadly viruses and other diseases. Building healthy eating habits and regular exercise through physical activities in children will make them stronger and well-prepared to fight off infections. Pack healthy meals for lunch breaks and recesses and avoid giving processed foods. Balanced freshly prepared home food can provide adequate nutrition to children. Include functional foods like green leafy vegetables, oats, corn, pulses, seasonal fruits and probiotic and prebiotic foods like curd, yoghurt, bananas and apples.

Returning to school, adjusting to the new teaching models and classroom environs may cause anxiety in many children and caregivers. But children are more resilient and flexible than adults, they are sometimes even better at coping with stress. 

Classroom experience is irreplaceable and a very memorable part of ones early life. As caregivers and mentors, being patient and providing reassurance will play a big role in empowering them to make up for the lost school time in a more responsible way

So lets look beyond the pandemic and make them “back to school’ ready!


Mahek Anand 
Parent, Writer, Events Professional 
A creative person with a bohemian vibe.
Aishwarya Lahiri Khanna is kept on her toes by a 3 year old, and loves to sweat it out in the kitchen, gaining back all calories lost.
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