Earlier this summer, I was so optimistic that the 2021 school year would be 'back to normal'. Now that I'm only a couple of weeks away from my kids going back to school, I'm thinking a lot about how to prepare for the next school year during COVID-19. After choosing to keep my kids home the last year and a half, we've opted to send them back to in-person instruction in the fall. To be completely honest, I'm anxious about the decision. After a lot of thought, we felt it was the best choice for our kids and our family, despite our fears. If you're feeling anxious or unsure about what to expect for back to school, here are some things I'm thinking about. I'm hoping these tips will help you think about how to prepare for the next school year. How to Prepare for the Next School Year During COVID-19 1. Talk to Your Kids To start, you should have an open dialogue with your kids about what they should expect from going back to school. You can talk to them about what their school day will look like and any rules the school is following. For example, my kids will need to wear masks and be at least 3 feet apart. 2. Understand What They Know Beyond just talking through what they should expect, you also want to know what your kids know and how they are feeling about going back to school. Make sure you give your kids the space to express their concerns, fears, and anything they might be feeling. This will help them to feel more confident in going back to school and comfortable with the new normal at school. 3. Be a Positive Role Model If you express your fears and hesitations about your kids going back to school too often, you might actually cause them additional stress or anxiety. Be optimistic and positive about their back-to-school experience. Also, you can be a positive role model by showing and reminding them about washing their hands, maintaining a safe social distance, and always wearing their masks. 4. Practice Safety Measure Depending on your school, your kids may or may not be required to wear masks all day, especially indoors. I know this can be hard for some kids. However, it might be easier if they understand why masks help keep them safe. You can have your kids start to wear a mask all day long, just as they would at school, as a way to start to practice. You can also remind your kids about good handwashing techniques and stock their backpacks with hand sanitizer. 5. Stock Up on Safety Supplies One of the important things to consider for how to prepare for the next school year is to think about what supplies you need. This will really depend on your school's requirements. Our kids do need masks at all times, so that's been a priority on my shopping list. One thing I did this year was to find more kid-friendly masks. At the beginning of COVID, it was hard to find kids-sized masks. Now it's quite easy. I have these disposable ones and I recently got these ones too, because they are even more adjustable. 6. Manage Anxiety Depending on your children, they may feel some anxiety with going back to school. I've noticed my son sometimes feels a bit anxious in crowds. This is why setting up a routine, having regular conversations, and practicing safety protocols are so important. You can remind your children all of the ways you are helping them to be ready and protect themselves. Each night after school, you can also talk to them about their day. You can ask them how they felt about their safety from time to time. Of course, you don't want to create additional fear, but I do think it is a good idea to ask them about the school's COVID policies and how they are managing them. 7. Establish a Routine If your kids have been schooling at home, they might not be ready for the rigorous schedule of school. A few days before school starts, make sure they are going to bed early and getting up earlier. Also make sure your kids are getting adequate nutrition in the morning and have healthy lunch options to keep them fueled throughout the day. 8. Supplement Learning at Home Our kids might be a bit behind their grade level due to less instruction and less teacher interaction the last year and a half. Be patient with your kids and understand that they had a much more challenging learning environment the last year and a half. The best thing we can do is keep an open dialogue with their teachers so we understand any deficiencies they might have. Then, you can help your children with the areas they need extra attention. Your school may also offer online supplements. For example, my kids still accessed some of their reading and math websites so they could practice this summer. I hope these tips for how to prepare for back to school during COVID are helpful. I also hope your kids have a great year! If you have other questions or comments about education, I'd love to hear them!