New Rules for School During the COVID-19 Pandemic

How to Make Sure Your Child’s Needs Are Being Met During a Very Different School Year

Regardless of how your child is receiving instruction this fall—in the classroom, remotely, or via a combination—one thing is certain: This school year looks nothing like any before it, presenting challenges for children and everyone who cares for them.

The best thing parents and caregivers can do is to create a routine, advises Anne Frederickson, MD, Clinical Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “The more kids have structure, whether in school or remotely, the better they tend to do,” she says. “Maintain family routines as best as you can.

“But keep in mind that not everything needs to be perfect right now,” she continues. “If the house is a little messier than usual because you’re spending time with your kids instead, that’s fine!”

Anne Frederickson
Anne Frederickson, MD

Here’s more advice from Dr. Frederickson about helping kids feel safe and keeping them connected:

Communication Is Key

Set up an open line of communication with teachers to prevent small problems from becoming larger issues. Ask questions: Is your child showing signs of anxiety about school? Is your child keeping up? Students with special needs are especially vulnerable to not getting what they need in times of change, Dr. Frederickson notes. “Advocate for what your child needs, regardless of the learning environment.”

Remember that Social Media Is Not Socialization

“Sending messages and videos is not the same as having back-and-forth interactions in real-time,” Dr. Frederickson cautions. She further advises parents to monitor kids’ social media presence by following them online or requesting their passwords.

Limit News Media

“Watching the news when your child is around may stir up anxiety,” says Dr. Frederickson. “Don’t hide what’s going on in the world, but become a gateway. Give your child as much information as he or she can manage.”

Notice Red Flags

Be aware of signs of withdrawal or isolation: kids no longer playing with things they usually play with, or teens not wanting to socialize with friends or family. In younger children, signs of emotional distress may manifest as stomachaches or headaches that originate without any apparent reason, explains Dr. Frederickson. Other signs of stress in kids of all ages include changes in sleep or appetite.

Look for the Silver Lining

“If you can use this time to get your children in the mindset of finding the positive in any situation,” says Dr. Frederickson, “that’s a coping skill that you are giving them for life.”

To learn more, visit Pediatric Psychiatric Services at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, or call 973.926.7026.