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A Fresh Start (?)

As the days and evenings begin to cool down, we can’t help but enjoy the last few days of summer and what has felt like a reprieve from a long, heavy storm. We would also be lying to ourselves if we weren’t thinking about what lies ahead for this school year and for our children. The question weighing on many of our minds is “what will school look like?” and “will our children be forced online again?” I don’t have a crystal ball and therefore cannot give you a definitive answer, but I can tell you what I know for sure.

I know that our kids need social connections. If the past lockdowns have taught us anything about the social and emotional well being of our children, it is the importance of face to face social connections and how positively they impact their mental health and well being. While the weather is warmer, sign your children up for outdoor activities and take advantage of the beautiful parks around you. Let them connect with their friends in safe and responsible ways; do not deny them this privilege, they need it!

I know that kids will learn what they need to, when they need to. In education, research has afforded us the ability to understand that a child's self-confidence is instrumental to their ability and willingness to learn and immerse themselves in productive struggle. Has there been learning loss due to the pandemic, yes. Will this have long term impacts on your child's learning trajectory? This depends. Ensuring that children feel safe, supported and that they believe in themselves should be at forefront of their return to school. This coupled with remediation, academic support (in and/or out of school) and time will help to recover any learning loss. This is not a scientific formula and needs to be differentiated to meet the varying needs of each child. The bottom line is, if they feel good about themselves and have access to support, they will be okay. Stephen Merrill wrote a beautiful article on why we should not be focusing on learning loss.

I know that children have an innate capacity for resilience and we all help to develop and foster their resiliency by ensuring they have caring relationships, realistic expectations and the opportunity to contribute and participate meaningfully in a community (family, school, group setting).

I know that trusting is hard and having faith some days seems impossible and yet, do we have other options? If so, I am all ears. Know that your children’s educators are doing the best they can and always assume their intentions are from a good place. There is so much that is out of our control, that we need to focus on the present and what is within our control. We must flex our patience now more than ever; our emotions are heightened and children have a sixth sense for this and will feed off of our anxiety and stress. So take time to play and walk with them. Take each day as it comes and try not to sweat the small stuff.

I know that the start of the new year is a great time for new routines. Think forward, not in the past. This is a unique opportunity to adjust schedules and create the space for children to take on more responsibilities. Maybe it is making their own lunch, walking to school with a buddy, homework routines (more to come on this in a later blog post) or managing their own schedules. With age comes responsibility and this will look different for different families. Decide what works for you and take an approach of gradual release of responsibility.

I know that our kids will be alright, until they are not! Don’t be afraid to ask for help or consult your healthcare provider. If your child has lost their spark, enthusiasm or smile, don’t wait patiently for it to return, advocate for them and get them the help they need. They deserve it!!

Feel free to share some of your back to school worries, I bet you are not alone!

Be well. Be you.

Stacey Jacobs

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