It’s back to school time across America, amid unprecedented uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic. For Ask the Experts this month, we asked KidsPeace educators to share advice with parents on how to meet the unique challenges this year.
Tell a Story
by Diane Conte
Have you ever read the story of a little raccoon named Chester who needs reassurance on the first day of school?
“Whenever you feel lonely and need a little loving from home, just press your hand to your cheek and think, “Mommy loves you. Mommy loves you.” Chester is comforted and goes to school.
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn has been used for nearly three decades to reassure children upset by separation anxiety, and the National Education Association has named the book on its “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children.” I often read that story to my sweet, frightened five-year-old as parting was so difficult for her. It worked before she even arrived to school because I remember her taking the window seat on the school bus and placing her tiny hand on her cheek, as I mirrored the motion, while watching the bus pull away.
We are all facing the same difficult decisions right now – cyber? classroom? hybrid? homeschool? tutor? – as new information rolls in daily, but with no consistent solution in sight. So, as an educator and a mom, I got to thinking: since school will look different for our dear children this year, why can’t “story time” be a powerful tool to help parents during this time when we may be at a loss for words? Why not turn to books to help ease our children’s anxiety and answer their questions?
There are many relevant story books to choose from, plus we gain the added benefit of spending quality time with our kids. Maybe an informative yet reassuring article can aid in talking to your high school-age kids about all the choices and changes they are facing. It’s no secret that books serve many purposes, so why not use them to comfort our children and remind them they are not alone in facing this new structure of learning?
It is important to let our children know it is okay to feel uncertain – and that, understandably, we parents have many questions and doubts ourselves. But if we are confident and creative in our approach, that in and of itself will help ease anxiety for the whole family. Who knows? It may even spark a discussion which can also allay fears.
Perhaps this unprecedented time will make us pioneers in successfully implementing ideas today that become helpful parental navigation tools for the future … that is, when OUR story of this time is told…
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – Neil Gaiman, Coraline
Diane Conte, M.S. (Ed.), teaches English at KidsPeace’s Donley TEC School in Orefield, PA