Emotionally prepare your kids for back-to-school with these expert tips

News Aug 25, 2020 by Megan DeLaire Toronto.com

Students, parents and teachers in Ontario will venture into new territory this September with the reopening of schools amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Ministry of Education and school boards across the province have worked throughout the summer to develop guidelines schools must follow in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. Students will need to navigate new rules this year around recess, sticking with their class cohort, physically distancing, mandatory mask usage and which personal belongings they can bring to school.


Just as parents have helped their children cope with the pandemic throughout the spring and summer, there are ways they can help prepare kids for the return to school, say Ann Douglas, a parenting expert and author of “Happy Parents, Happy Kids,” and Alyson Schafer, a family counsellor, parenting expert and author.

“Back-to-school for every child is always a mix of emotions. Sometimes kids are just anxious about getting lost on the playground and being in the same class as their friend,” Schafer said.

“We want to always normalize emotions with kids. What’s helpful is preparing them so they can kind of make a little mental map or rehearsal and have a greater sense of psychological security.”


If you’re a parent at a loss for how to prepare your child for a school year unlike any other, here is some advice from these two experts.

PROBLEM SOLVING

Parents, students and teachers have some information about how schools will function this year, but they can’t predict every challenge that will arise once class resumes.

For example, Douglas said children could find themselves faced with decisions around friendships, social quandaries that may arise if students in their grade are split into several cohorts, what to do if they lose or forget their masks and other unforeseen issues.

babyphotodbj Ann Douglas is a parenting expert and author of “Happy Parents, Happy Kids.” - Ann Douglas photo

For that reason, she said, parents might want to help kids build problem-solving skills.

“I think part of what parents and other caring adults need to do is help kids understand how they would solve these particular problems and problems they can’t anticipate ahead of time," Douglas said.

She said children should be encouraged to take time to think about important decisions wherever possible, rather than feeling pressure to answer right away. For example, parents can tell their children that if a friend wants to share toys, they can take time to think about an answer.

“Kids are going to feel pressure to make lot of important decisions in the moment, since all of this is new,” Douglas said. “But parents can help reduce the pressure by telling them it’s OK to sell someone ‘I don’t know, I need to think about this before I give you an answer.’”

FLEXIBILITY

Since uncertainty is a major driver of anxiety, Douglas said students who learn to go with the flow may struggle less to pivot and adapt when the plan for the week changes by noon on Monday.

Along with problem-solving skills, Douglas said parents should encourage flexible thinking in children, to prepare them for times when plans will inevitably change without warning, like if a student in their class tests positive for COVID-19. 

Flexible thinking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but Douglas said parents can help children develop the skill by talking through solutions to hypothetical scenarios which may arise, and even through play, by changing up the rules of familiar games.

“Let’s say you’re playing a typical board game like Snakes and Ladders and the goal is to get to the top of the board. You can say, ‘OK, when the timer goes off we’re going to switch the direction of play and suddenly the idea is not to get to the top of the board, it’s to get to the bottom of the board as quickly as you can,’” Douglas suggested.

“There are ways to work on this skill, but even just talking about it, the cognitive meta awareness piece where you’re actually having conversations about thinking, can be hugely helpful to people of all ages.”

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

Schafer said just as many adults have experienced productivity peaks and valleys throughout the pandemic, children are prone to the same phenomenon. Therefore, she said, parents may need to relax their academic expectations this year and focus on making sure kids feel supported.

“They’re just so fearful that their kids are not going to get the same education another kid got and that somehow their kids is going to get left behind,” she said.

babyphotodbj Alyson Schafer is a family counsellor, parenting expert and author. - Alyson Schafer

“I think, for parents, if ever there was time to appreciate that everyone is scrambling, this is it. If we get into scarcity and fear mode around education, it actually doesn’t help our kids learn. It makes them more worried, more discouraged.”

Douglas believes kids should feel comfortable communicating with adults — be they parents or teachers — when they are feeling stressed or struggling to understand a lesson or concentrate on work.

“A lot of the time, all kids really need to hear is that their feelings make sense,” she said. “It could be as simple as communicating to the teacher ‘I am feeling really anxious.’”

INDEPENDENCE

Since many teachers will see their roles expand this year to include elements of infectious disease control, Schafer said parents can make their jobs easier by ensuring children are as self-sufficient as their age and level of development allows.

For example, she said elementary school-aged children should come to school in September already able to tie their own shoes, take off their coats, open the clasps on their lunch boxes, apply hand sanitizer, or pull a sheet of sanitizing wipe off of a roll, and properly wash their hands.

“Every child that can learn to be more independent is going to be a help,” she said. “Do they know how they return the taps on their own and get the right temperature without scalding their hands? All these little micro skills are really important.”

How to prepare your kids for back-to-school during COVID-19

Two experts outline how parents can help ease the transition back to school

News Aug 25, 2020 by Megan DeLaire Toronto.com

Students, parents and teachers in Ontario will venture into new territory this September with the reopening of schools amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Ministry of Education and school boards across the province have worked throughout the summer to develop guidelines schools must follow in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. Students will need to navigate new rules this year around recess, sticking with their class cohort, physically distancing, mandatory mask usage and which personal belongings they can bring to school.


Just as parents have helped their children cope with the pandemic throughout the spring and summer, there are ways they can help prepare kids for the return to school, say Ann Douglas, a parenting expert and author of “Happy Parents, Happy Kids,” and Alyson Schafer, a family counsellor, parenting expert and author.

“Back-to-school for every child is always a mix of emotions. Sometimes kids are just anxious about getting lost on the playground and being in the same class as their friend,” Schafer said.

Related Content

“We want to always normalize emotions with kids. What’s helpful is preparing them so they can kind of make a little mental map or rehearsal and have a greater sense of psychological security.”


If you’re a parent at a loss for how to prepare your child for a school year unlike any other, here is some advice from these two experts.

PROBLEM SOLVING

Parents, students and teachers have some information about how schools will function this year, but they can’t predict every challenge that will arise once class resumes.

For example, Douglas said children could find themselves faced with decisions around friendships, social quandaries that may arise if students in their grade are split into several cohorts, what to do if they lose or forget their masks and other unforeseen issues.

babyphotodbj Ann Douglas is a parenting expert and author of “Happy Parents, Happy Kids.” - Ann Douglas photo

For that reason, she said, parents might want to help kids build problem-solving skills.

“I think part of what parents and other caring adults need to do is help kids understand how they would solve these particular problems and problems they can’t anticipate ahead of time," Douglas said.

She said children should be encouraged to take time to think about important decisions wherever possible, rather than feeling pressure to answer right away. For example, parents can tell their children that if a friend wants to share toys, they can take time to think about an answer.

“Kids are going to feel pressure to make lot of important decisions in the moment, since all of this is new,” Douglas said. “But parents can help reduce the pressure by telling them it’s OK to sell someone ‘I don’t know, I need to think about this before I give you an answer.’”

FLEXIBILITY

Since uncertainty is a major driver of anxiety, Douglas said students who learn to go with the flow may struggle less to pivot and adapt when the plan for the week changes by noon on Monday.

Along with problem-solving skills, Douglas said parents should encourage flexible thinking in children, to prepare them for times when plans will inevitably change without warning, like if a student in their class tests positive for COVID-19. 

Flexible thinking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but Douglas said parents can help children develop the skill by talking through solutions to hypothetical scenarios which may arise, and even through play, by changing up the rules of familiar games.

“Let’s say you’re playing a typical board game like Snakes and Ladders and the goal is to get to the top of the board. You can say, ‘OK, when the timer goes off we’re going to switch the direction of play and suddenly the idea is not to get to the top of the board, it’s to get to the bottom of the board as quickly as you can,’” Douglas suggested.

“There are ways to work on this skill, but even just talking about it, the cognitive meta awareness piece where you’re actually having conversations about thinking, can be hugely helpful to people of all ages.”

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

Schafer said just as many adults have experienced productivity peaks and valleys throughout the pandemic, children are prone to the same phenomenon. Therefore, she said, parents may need to relax their academic expectations this year and focus on making sure kids feel supported.

“They’re just so fearful that their kids are not going to get the same education another kid got and that somehow their kids is going to get left behind,” she said.

babyphotodbj Alyson Schafer is a family counsellor, parenting expert and author. - Alyson Schafer

“I think, for parents, if ever there was time to appreciate that everyone is scrambling, this is it. If we get into scarcity and fear mode around education, it actually doesn’t help our kids learn. It makes them more worried, more discouraged.”

Douglas believes kids should feel comfortable communicating with adults — be they parents or teachers — when they are feeling stressed or struggling to understand a lesson or concentrate on work.

“A lot of the time, all kids really need to hear is that their feelings make sense,” she said. “It could be as simple as communicating to the teacher ‘I am feeling really anxious.’”

INDEPENDENCE

Since many teachers will see their roles expand this year to include elements of infectious disease control, Schafer said parents can make their jobs easier by ensuring children are as self-sufficient as their age and level of development allows.

For example, she said elementary school-aged children should come to school in September already able to tie their own shoes, take off their coats, open the clasps on their lunch boxes, apply hand sanitizer, or pull a sheet of sanitizing wipe off of a roll, and properly wash their hands.

“Every child that can learn to be more independent is going to be a help,” she said. “Do they know how they return the taps on their own and get the right temperature without scalding their hands? All these little micro skills are really important.”

How to prepare your kids for back-to-school during COVID-19

Two experts outline how parents can help ease the transition back to school

News Aug 25, 2020 by Megan DeLaire Toronto.com

Students, parents and teachers in Ontario will venture into new territory this September with the reopening of schools amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Ministry of Education and school boards across the province have worked throughout the summer to develop guidelines schools must follow in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. Students will need to navigate new rules this year around recess, sticking with their class cohort, physically distancing, mandatory mask usage and which personal belongings they can bring to school.


Just as parents have helped their children cope with the pandemic throughout the spring and summer, there are ways they can help prepare kids for the return to school, say Ann Douglas, a parenting expert and author of “Happy Parents, Happy Kids,” and Alyson Schafer, a family counsellor, parenting expert and author.

“Back-to-school for every child is always a mix of emotions. Sometimes kids are just anxious about getting lost on the playground and being in the same class as their friend,” Schafer said.

Related Content

“We want to always normalize emotions with kids. What’s helpful is preparing them so they can kind of make a little mental map or rehearsal and have a greater sense of psychological security.”


If you’re a parent at a loss for how to prepare your child for a school year unlike any other, here is some advice from these two experts.

PROBLEM SOLVING

Parents, students and teachers have some information about how schools will function this year, but they can’t predict every challenge that will arise once class resumes.

For example, Douglas said children could find themselves faced with decisions around friendships, social quandaries that may arise if students in their grade are split into several cohorts, what to do if they lose or forget their masks and other unforeseen issues.

babyphotodbj Ann Douglas is a parenting expert and author of “Happy Parents, Happy Kids.” - Ann Douglas photo

For that reason, she said, parents might want to help kids build problem-solving skills.

“I think part of what parents and other caring adults need to do is help kids understand how they would solve these particular problems and problems they can’t anticipate ahead of time," Douglas said.

She said children should be encouraged to take time to think about important decisions wherever possible, rather than feeling pressure to answer right away. For example, parents can tell their children that if a friend wants to share toys, they can take time to think about an answer.

“Kids are going to feel pressure to make lot of important decisions in the moment, since all of this is new,” Douglas said. “But parents can help reduce the pressure by telling them it’s OK to sell someone ‘I don’t know, I need to think about this before I give you an answer.’”

FLEXIBILITY

Since uncertainty is a major driver of anxiety, Douglas said students who learn to go with the flow may struggle less to pivot and adapt when the plan for the week changes by noon on Monday.

Along with problem-solving skills, Douglas said parents should encourage flexible thinking in children, to prepare them for times when plans will inevitably change without warning, like if a student in their class tests positive for COVID-19. 

Flexible thinking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but Douglas said parents can help children develop the skill by talking through solutions to hypothetical scenarios which may arise, and even through play, by changing up the rules of familiar games.

“Let’s say you’re playing a typical board game like Snakes and Ladders and the goal is to get to the top of the board. You can say, ‘OK, when the timer goes off we’re going to switch the direction of play and suddenly the idea is not to get to the top of the board, it’s to get to the bottom of the board as quickly as you can,’” Douglas suggested.

“There are ways to work on this skill, but even just talking about it, the cognitive meta awareness piece where you’re actually having conversations about thinking, can be hugely helpful to people of all ages.”

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

Schafer said just as many adults have experienced productivity peaks and valleys throughout the pandemic, children are prone to the same phenomenon. Therefore, she said, parents may need to relax their academic expectations this year and focus on making sure kids feel supported.

“They’re just so fearful that their kids are not going to get the same education another kid got and that somehow their kids is going to get left behind,” she said.

babyphotodbj Alyson Schafer is a family counsellor, parenting expert and author. - Alyson Schafer

“I think, for parents, if ever there was time to appreciate that everyone is scrambling, this is it. If we get into scarcity and fear mode around education, it actually doesn’t help our kids learn. It makes them more worried, more discouraged.”

Douglas believes kids should feel comfortable communicating with adults — be they parents or teachers — when they are feeling stressed or struggling to understand a lesson or concentrate on work.

“A lot of the time, all kids really need to hear is that their feelings make sense,” she said. “It could be as simple as communicating to the teacher ‘I am feeling really anxious.’”

INDEPENDENCE

Since many teachers will see their roles expand this year to include elements of infectious disease control, Schafer said parents can make their jobs easier by ensuring children are as self-sufficient as their age and level of development allows.

For example, she said elementary school-aged children should come to school in September already able to tie their own shoes, take off their coats, open the clasps on their lunch boxes, apply hand sanitizer, or pull a sheet of sanitizing wipe off of a roll, and properly wash their hands.

“Every child that can learn to be more independent is going to be a help,” she said. “Do they know how they return the taps on their own and get the right temperature without scalding their hands? All these little micro skills are really important.”