Getting your child ready for this school year includes big decisions – like whether they’ll be learning at home or in the classroom – and new rules due to COVID-19. Before you sit down to talk all it over with your child, pause to check in with yourself.

(When you’re ready, here are tips for talking to younger kids about changes at school.)

Developmental pediatrician Robert D. Keder, MD, shares tips.

1. Pause and think about what your child and family need.

To help you decide the right learning environment for your child this fall, try this checklist from Connecticut Children’s physician-in-chief.

2. Manage your own fears before talking to your child.

This is a tough time for parents. Take a deep breath and be kind to yourself. Lean on your support network. If you’re feeling anxious about the start of the school year, find a friend, family member or counselor to talk to about it.

3. Plan to model calm.

Kids take their cues from adults. If you’re calm and upbeat when you talk to your child about school, they’re more likely to have a positive outlook too.

4. Give your child some time to prepare. 

You know your child best. But in general, the older the child, the more time you’ll want to give them to mentally prepare for how the new school year will look. For school-age children, you might start talking about it a couple weeks before school starts.

5. Think about how you’ll explain your family’s decision for the fall.

Whether you’ve decided to have your child go back to school in the classroom, learn from home or a little of both, you’ll want to help your child understand and feel good about the decision.

Boil it down into short, simple reasons, and focus on the positives. For example: “We’re excited for you to be with your friends again” or “You did a great job learning from home last spring, and we think it’ll be fun to keep it up.” Explain that different families are making different decisions, and that’s OK.

6. If your child is returning to the classroom, develop a plan to practice those new rules now.

It will be a comfort to your child (and you) to know that they can take simple steps to have a sense of control. Prepare to talk to them about what to practice now to get ready for school during COVID-19.

7. If your child will be learning at home, make a plan to help them succeed.

This can include setting up a home office, creating a visual calendar and determining how they’ll stay connected to their peers. Prepare to ask your child for their input on all of this.

8. Ready to talk?

From helping your child understand new rules to supporting them as they work through big emotions, here are tips for talking to younger kids about changes at school.

> For more help with the new school year, check out our Back to School Kit

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