This post is sponsored by TextNow
Back to school season is here and while we’re excited for the return to in-person learning, this year comes with a mix of emotions. Our kids may seem happy and well-adjusted but living and learning during the pandemic has been stressful. We can’t expect our kids to remember everything about school after so much time away so it’s important to take time to prepare for a return to in-person learning.
You may think that preparing for this school year is the same as every other year. True, you still need to shop for school supplies (please by 2x hand sanitizer, wipes, and tissues for your teachers!) but there’s also important social and emotional work that needs to be done to prepare for a return to in-person learning.
According to new data released by the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health, nearly half (48%) of U.S. teens are concerned about experiencing social anxiety transitioning back to normal life post-pandemic.
While educators have been anticipating how the transition might affect our students, this statistic highlights the importance of social and emotional learning (SEL). SEL helps kids work on things like coping with feelings and setting goals. It aids with interpersonal skills, builds self-esteem, and can help those who learn and think differently talk about their challenges. SEL is a fundamental building block that is critical to learning for kids of all ages.
3 Things to Do at Home to Prepare for a Return to In-Person Learning
This year SEL is a huge focus in schools and classrooms around the country. As teacher, I know that if my students aren’t socially and emotionally well, they’ll have a hard time learning. However, it’s just as important to support my two teens at home by helping them develop social and emotional skills.
Things like planning ahead, getting organized, and making kids feel safe help kids feel supported. But the way we need to look at these 3 things with our kids is different after a year of being at home. Here’s a look at how working together to plan ahead, get organized, and help kids feel safe at home can support their social and emotional learning and tips to help students of all ages feel ready for what this new school year brings.
Plan Ahead as You Return to In-Person Learning
Kids thrive on routines and anxiety can be lessened if kids know what to expect. Routines that are part of the school day bring a great amount of comfort because each day is the same. But don’t expect your child, tween, or teen to remember every detail about their school day before they went virtual.
Before school starts, take some time to go over each part of their day.
What needs to happen at home before the day starts
Now is a good time for developing a morning routine of getting up at a certain time, having breakfast, getting dressed, and brushing teeth. Once school starts, have kids help pack lunches and make sure items get in their backpacks for the school day.
Also discuss about what they should do if they forget an item. With everyone at home working and learning during virtual school, it’s important to think through what they should do if they leave their lunch at home, if they forget their instrument, etc.
You may want them to seek help from school staff, but it can be scary for kids to ask adults for help. They may feel more comfortable calling you and having you facilitate next steps with school staff. While this shouldn’t be a practice that continues through middle and high school, recognize that limited interactions with staff in the building may make your child feel more timid.
Getting to and from school
Gone are the days where getting to and from school meant sitting down in a chair and logging on and off Zoom. You may walk to school, ride the bus, or have teens who are old enough to teens who drive themselves. Make sure you go over the logistics of getting to and from school because this provides a sense of security.
If the schedule changes each day, make sure your kids know. A digital family calendar such as Skylight can be helpful or if you’re a paper planner person like me, I can’t live without my MomAgenda! Make sure both are accessible to your kids so they get used to checking the family calendar for changes as the year goes on.
The day’s school schedule
The first couple of weeks are school are all about developing routines. Once your child starts school and gets their schedule, asking them questions about activities they did during the day helps them remember the order of the day and adds a sense of security.
Any extracurricular activities
With virtual learning and limited extracurriculars, kids aren’t used to remembering so many schedules for the different days of the week. Remind kids about what’s happening after school either the day before during dinner or the evening hours or before they leave for school in the morning.
If planning ahead to help your child feels overwhelming, start slow. Take a look at the list above and choose one thing to do now. Space out the rest. Maybe focus on your morning routine one day. Practice walking to school or visiting the bus stop over the weekend. You don’t have to do all these things at once as you prepare for a return to in-person learning. Doing too much could contribute to start of school anxiety.
Get Organized as You Return to In-Person Learning
Kids of all ages can help with back to school organization! By doing so, you’re helping them build confidence and self esteem. Here are a few quick ideas that empower them and make your life a bit easier as you prepare for a return to in-person learning.
Color Code It
Before shopping for back to school items, have each child in your house choose a color. Then as you’re shopping, ask each child to find a backpack, lunchbox (I’m loving the super cute Dabbawalla Bags), school supplies, pencil box, etc. in the same color family.
This makes it easy for younger kids to spot items and grab the things that are theirs as they run out the door on busy mornings. For older kids who don’t need to color code, my teens are loving Speck’s Transfer Pro backpacks that have plenty of pockets and features to keep them organized during the day.
If you’re looking for fun products that won’t break the bank, check out the great school supplies at Walmart.com, Dollar Tree, and Dollar General. All 3 stores have notebooks and folders, journals, student planners, pads of paper and more that come in fun patterns that appeal to kids of all ages. As a teacher, I love the colorful 12 Month Undated Spiral Bound Teacher Planner. If you have an elementary schooler, be sure to grab a Teacher Supply Co Classroom Sticker Book for a first day of school teacher gift.
Ask them to affix Mabel’s Labels to their stuff. We’ve been using Mabel’s Labels on our things since my now teens were in preschool. Little fingers are perfectly suited for peeling and sticking labels on clothing, school supplies, lunchboxes, and even masks to ensure belongings find their way back to your home.
Empower your kids by having them choose breakfast and lunch items. Having things like Oats Overnight on hand makes it easy for them select a flavor, add milk, shake, stash it in the fridge, and grab it when they come down the next morning.
I’m also a big fan of Spudlove Snacks for lunches. These organic, sustainably farmed thick cut potato chips come in snack sized bags perfect for lunches and every flavor we’ve tried is absolutely delicious!
Help Them Feel Safe as You Return to In-Person Learning
Excitement about being with a teacher and friends in a classroom for face-to-face learning can also result in anxiety about friendships and nervousness about safety. It’s understandable.
Our families have spent the last 18 months doing everything we can to keep each other healthy, including staying at home and learning virtually. Hearing about the Delta variant and the continued requirements to mask and the inability to be vaccinated can be confusing. Young minds might have difficulty understanding how going to school will be safe as you prepare for a return to in-person learning.
Kids of all ages need reassurance through what you say, your actions, and feeling properly prepared by having the right things that can make them feel secure.
Keep them healthy
Supply them with items to keep them safe like masks they’re comfortable wearing and small bottles of hand sanitizer or wipes that can be kept in their lunchboxes. If you’re wondering what the bests masks are, they’re the ones that your kids will wear! Old comfortable favorites are fine but plan to get new ones to celebrate a new year. I’m currently obsessed with the tie dyed ones above that are hand dyed by my friend, Michael over at MichaelDoesCrafts.com.
Michael makes tie dyed masks in adult and kid sizes in an array of colors and tie dye patterns. I also LOVE that you can order ones with elastic ear loops or ones with ties that come with glass beads, making them adjustable. Pro tip: If you order the adjustable masks with ties, he also has a hack for turning them into necklaces! This simple hack will help keep your kids’ masks cleaner and on their person (rather than on the floor, getting spilled on in a lunchbox, etc.) when they have to remove them to eat lunch. There are so many fun color combos available and I can’t wait to wear my new tie dyed masks from Michael in my school colors of navy, white, and yellow when my school year starts!
If your child goes to school where masks aren’t required, reinforce why mask wearing helps keep everyone healthy. I like the convenience of Olo Band, a hand sanitizer pod that you wear like a bracelet that helps keep hand sanitizer nearby at all times. In addition to masking and hand sanitizer, ramp up immunity with Immune Support Kids gummy vitamins from Persona Nutrition as cold and flu season approaches.
If you haven’t already vaccinated your eligible kids, make sure to make a plan to get them vaccinated before school starts!
Keep them safe
Tuck a flashlight in your teen’s bag if they’re catching the bus early in the morning or have extracurriculars that go until after dark. While they have their lights on their cell phones, you don’t want to count on them having much of a charge at the end of the day. A small powerful flashlight like the Fenix E12 Flashlight for Everyday Carry will keep them safe without weighing them down or taking up too much space in their backpack.
Keep them communicating
Provide them with a way they can get in touch with you. If you’ve been looking for a cost effective way to provide your child with a cell phone, TextNow allows you to stay connected with free calling and texting. It may sound too good to be true but it is!
Last month Consumer Reports shared the Best Low-Cost Cell Phone Plans from major cell phone carriers. They found plans cost vary according to the number of lines and data needed, making it hard to figure out if you’re really getting a good deal. With TextNow you never have to decipher cell phone plans again to figure out if you’re getting a good deal.
TextNow’s mission is to bring people exceptional phone service for free, or as close to free as possible. TextNow’s app lets you call or text for free over WiFi. By downloading the TextNow app to your smartphone or tablet, or creating an account right from your desktop machine, you can get a real phone number to call and text for free.
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I did the math to determine how much our family of 4 could save based on Consumer Reports’ Best Low-Cost Cell Phone Plans. For our family of 4, the cost would be a minimum of $240/month at this rate. Multiply $240 x 12 (the number of months in a year) and our annual cell phone bill would add up to $2880! With TextNow, a family of 4 like ours could save almost $3000 a year. This is substantial savings for any family!
This post was sponsored by TextNow but all opinions are my own. Affiliate links are included in this post and by clicking on them and making a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the revenue from the sale. Product samples were received for review purposes.