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Back to school but not back to normal

Back to school! (MyNorthwest photo)

This week, many middle and high school students statewide are setting foot in classrooms for the first time since March of last year, when the pandemic prompted the governor to close school buildings.

Those students are facing adjustments beyond mask wearing and social distancing, according to Dr. Erin Gonzalez, a clinical psychologist with University of Washington Medicine and Seattle Children’s Hospital.

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“There probably will be a few very exciting days with the novelty of going back into the classroom and seeing people, and then there’s going to be a wave of overwhelm, I anticipate,” Gonzalez said.

She suggests that parents acknowledge their children’s feelings and empathize with them. Then help them take back some of that control.

“We’re going back tomorrow, and let’s make a plan together of how you’re going to unwind tonight, how we can make the morning go as peacefully as possible, and how I can support you throughout your day tomorrow,” Gonzalez offered.

She says, if you can, resist the urge to switch them back to the kind of full-time remote learning we saw earlier in the pandemic.

“This is not the way that humans, historically, have lived throughout civilization, to be in a solo family unit and not have outside contact,” Gonzalez said. “We’re very much a communal species.”

She adds that much of what students need and learn comes from interacting with each other, not just books.

Still, “it’s going to be a process,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not going to be an overnight transition. Kids are going to have some ups and downs, especially socially, and getting used to the classroom routine,” so families need to be patient.

Check out the back to school planning list from the Centers for Disease Control.

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