Helping your child navigate back-to-school anxiety during COVID-19

September 2, 2020by Jennifer Palisoc

Father helps his child put a mask on

Back-to-school this year will be unlike any other due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some tips to help parents and kids talk about COVID-19 and returning to the classroom. Dr. Karen Wang, a child and youth psychiatrist and Dr. Joanna Mansfield a psychiatrist at Sunnybrook’s Women’s Mood and Anxiety Clinic, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Clinic share their insights.

What are some signs that my child is feeling anxious about returning to school?

Dr. Wang: Children of all ages show their anxiety in different ways. In younger children, they may report more physical signs of discomfort such as headaches, stomachaches, and even have changes to their sleep and appetite.  Some children may exhibit more frequent outbursts. Older children can typically share their feelings directly and may ask specific questions about returning back to school.

Keeping an eye out for these signs and talking to children openly about their concerns around COVID-19 is important.

If their fears or worries begin affecting their day-to-day lives and functioning, or if they are showing unusual fatigue or sleep change plus uncontrollable sadness or crying, reach out to a health care provider for help.

Tips for talking to your kids about mental health

How can I talk to my kids about their concerns around COVID-19 and going back to school?

Dr. Mansfield: Listening to a child’s concerns and validating their emotions is important in helping children express their feelings. Paraphrase back to your children what you have heard from them about their concerns. This is a supportive process, in that it will show them that you are listening and gives an opportunity for your children to make sure you are hearing them in the way they want to be heard.

Discuss their concerns and share information in an age-appropriate way. For example, young children can get overwhelmed with too many details. Listen to their questions and keep answers simple, and truthful to the level they can understand. Be honest and calm.

For children who are older, a deeper discussion may be needed. It’s helpful to have the latest information available to provide context. It may also be a good opportunity to help your youth access credible information (e.g. academic, health and government resources) and to talk about how to manage information overload during the pandemic.

What are some ways I can help my child prepare for back to school?

Dr. Wang: First, families can help by having regular communication with their child about the upcoming school year.  This fall is going to be a unique learning situation with many new procedures to learn and master.  Parents can help their children prepare for new safety measures such as physical distancing, mask wearing, proper hand hygiene, symptom awareness and potential screening measures.  By explaining the rationale for these procedures and practicing regularly before school begins, these measures will pose less of a barrier to learning throughout the day.

Since it has been six months since children have been in school, they may also be very excited and nervous about the return.  Parents can help them to process these emotions and talk through their concerns and their expectations.

Secondly, it would be important to help re-establish regular bedtimes and wake up times. A consistent schedule can help children cope with the changes ahead.  Proper nutrition and exercise are also key to helping reduce stress for a more healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Lastly, it is also helpful for parents to send a message to kids that they are capable and resilient.  Reassure children that there are still many things that are within their control and which can positively help with the reduction of risk.  Children like to feel that they can be a part of the solution.  Remind them that following the public health safety measures are their way of contributing to a safe reopening, both for themselves but also for their teachers and friends.

Back-to-school tips from our director of infection prevention and control

How can I help my child deal with separation anxiety on the first day of school?

Dr. Wang: Both parents and children can experience separation anxiety during the return to school.  The whole family can prepare by talking about the daily schedule and how things will change when school starts.

If parents are anxious, they can try to mitigate against that by working with the teacher or school in advance with a meeting to discuss any questions or concerns.

To help children feel less anxious about back-to-school, parents may approach their conversations by saying, “This is going to be a place where you’re going to go this year and we’re going to try to make it as safe as possible. This is where you will meet new friends, have fun and learn new things.” This reassurance from the parent to the child is key in reducing separation anxiety of the child, but it may take some time. Back-to-school time is always a period of adjustment for both parent and child.

How can I help my child prepare for wearing masks throughout the school day?

Dr. Mansfield: Try to make wearing a mask fun by involving children in the process of choosing the colour or designs on the mask, while still emphasizing the importance of wearing one and how masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.

A step-by-step approach can help children, especially younger children, with wearing masks. They can begin wearing them at home to become more accustomed to the mask. Wearing a mask while doing something relaxing, such as, watching television or reading can help a child feel more comfortable in those situations. Eventually, you can try to move onto wearing a mask outdoors in public settings as a child becomes better able to tolerate wearing the mask for longer periods of time.

Learn more about mask anxiety

What are some strategies to help children and youth cope with their mental health?

Dr. Mansfield: There are a few exercises that parents and kids can do together that can help ease anxiety in the days leading up to school.

Worry Box: Create a “Worry Box” where kids of all ages can write down their worries or questions about returning to school and/or COVID-19 and place them in the box. You can also write it for them or they can draw a picture if they can’t write it on their own. This can help children externalize their worries and see that the thoughts or ideas they are having. Designate a specific day, time and place where the family can regularly go through the questions to help address their concerns. Sometimes the worry will already be resolved by the time you review it and if it’s still a challenge after your discussion, put it back in the box again to review next time. Organizing a specific time to address the worries will help your children focus on what they need to do during the day, knowing that they will have a chance to reflect on the worries and also have your full attention during the worry box time. This can also give parents a specific time to devote to answering questions without them popping up sporadically throughout the day.

List of Worries:  Make a list with two categories: What You Can Control and The Things You Can’t Control. List your worries in the appropriate category. In the column with items you cannot control, when you look at it a bit closer, you may find smaller aspects that you can control that can be placed in the other column.

For example, while you can’t control what is happening in the news, you can control how often you watch or read the news. Parents can talk with their children about putting effort and energy into the items that they can control (e.g. wearing masks or physical distancing) rather than focusing on the items that are out of their control (e.g. what’s happening in the news around COVID, certain rules at school).

Elementary Model Change Opportunity

Dear Parents,

All families with students in a YRDSB elementary school should have received the following letter from Louise Sirisko, our Director of Education, earlier this week.

Please read over the information carefully. The request form will be sent to families on Monday, September 21st and must be completed by 7:00pm on Tuesday, September 22nd. This will be the last chance to request a change to or from the Elementary Virtual School until the end of January. Please fill out of the form even if you have given your name to the school for the Elementary Virtual School wait list.

Dear Families: Thank you for your support as we work through COVID-19 school reopening.  We recognize that some families are requesting a change in their school program model from face to face learning to virtual school or from virtual school to face to face.  On Monday, September 21, we will share a School Model Change request form for families requesting a change.  

Only families requesting a school model change will need to complete this form.  The form must be completed by Tuesday, September 22 at 7 p.m. to be considered. 

We had previously communicated an elementary transition time at the end of October. We have adjusted this to provide the opportunity now and the best continuity of learning for our students throughout the remainder of the term.  There will not be another opportunity to change program models before the end of January 2021.

Due to the complexity of the pending reorganization and staffing, your child may be assigned a new teacher. Staff will continue to work diligently to provide the best program for each child and to comply with the reduced cohort class size targets.  Please note, however, that there may be changes prior to September 30, 2020. The number of combined grade classes may increase and the number of students within each class may increase. You will be informed of any changes to your child’s class placement or program model through the school principal. We thank you for your support, patience and cooperation.


Sincerely,
Louise Sirisko Director of Education

International and Indigenous Languages (IIL) Classes

Registration Open for 2020-2021 Elementary

International and Indigenous Languages (IIL) Classes

Dear Families,

The International and Indigenous Languages (IIL) program provides elementary and secondary students with the opportunity to speak, read and write a new language or maintain heritage language and culture. Due to the pandemic, International and Indigenous Language classes for SK to Grade 8 students will take place online, not in the school buildings. Teachers will teach live language lessons in real time using Google Classroom to provide both synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities during the regularly scheduled language class. 

Lots of information is also available on our International and Indigenous webpages. To learn more about elementary programs, click on elementary programs. Below you will find information on how to register for elementary (SK to grade 8) language classes.

Elementary Program Registration

  • Refer to our revised brochure for the most up-to-date information about class start dates and times.
  • Online registration is available to YRDSB and NON-YRDSB students:

Or, to create a new Edsby account

NOTE: Use of a laptop or desktop is highly recommended. Edsby cannot support online registration from any mobile or tablet device.

More information on the elementary program and secondary credit program is available on our webpages. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at (905) 884-2046 ext. 242 or email us at international.languages@yrdsb.ca.  Thank you for your interest in our programs.

Items to Remember Borrowed Technology

  • Please use the COVID-19 self assessment each morning for your child/ren. If they have even one of symptom, they should stay home. If your child is not feeling well, they should stay home.
  • Students need consistent reminders to socially distance, please remind them at home as well.
  • Masks – please send 3 masks and a place (bag, pouch) to store dirty masks.
  • If a child experiences any symptoms i.e., cough, etc. of COVID at school, we isolate the child in a supervised space (Designated Isolation Room) and will call parents/guardians for pick up.

TECHNOLOGY: If you borrowed technology last spring, please send it back to school this week with your child. We will sanitize it, inventory it and re-deploy for classes so students can access it.

Message from Virtual School

This message is for families with children who signed up/registered for online learning or Elementary Virtual School (EVS).

We understand there is confusion around the recent communication sent to you which states: Families with children attending the Elementary Virtual School have been sent a separate message with information.”

Please be assured that you will be receiving a communication shortly (if you have not received it already) which indicates the following:

There will be supported entry for EVS on Thursday, September 10 and Friday, September 11 with regularly scheduled virtual classes beginning on Monday September 14.  

We sincerely apologize for any confusion and undue stress this has caused you.

Kindergarten Support Entry

September 2, 2020

Dear families,

I hope you are healthy and doing well, and had a restful summer. We look forward to welcoming our new and returning students and families. While we were connecting online, we missed our students and look forward to welcoming them back.

This letter contains important information about the return to school. Please review it. I also encourage families to visit www.yrdsb.ca/school-reopening for videos, frequently asked questions, important health and safety information and more about the school reopening. There is a translation tool on the website that will translate the content into over 100 languages.

School Return Dates and Procedures

This year, we will be delaying students’ return to school to give school staff time to prepare for your child’s return. For the first few days of school, we will be welcoming students back in smaller groups to give them additional time to learn and practice our new health and safety measures, and to support their transition back to school after the school closures.

Typically, your homeroom classroom teacher placement is provided on the first day of school. This year, as we finalize the staffing process and timetables for students, we are working to provide you with your child’s homeroom class placement before school begins. We will send you a follow up communication with this information.

Kindergarten – Year One (Junior Kindergarten)

If your child’s last name begins with A-K, they will:

  • Attend school on Monday, September 14.
  • Attend school Wednesday, September 16 (they will not go to school Tuesday or Thursday that week).
  • They will begin attending school every day with their full class on Friday, September 18.

If your child’s last name begins with L-Z, they will:

  • Attend school on Tuesday, September 15.
  • Attend school Thursday, September 17 (they will not go to school Monday or Wednesday that week).
  • They will begin attending school every day with their full class on Friday, September 18.

Kindergarten – Year Two (Senior Kindergarten)

Students in Year 2 Kindergarten will start school Thursday, September 10, 2020. They will attend school every day.

Arrival

When students arrive at school on their first day, they should go to the kindergarten pen (yard). Parents are not to enter the kindergarten pen and must remain on the other side of the fencing. School arrival for 9:00 a.m. and dismissal at 3:20 a.m.

If your child is registered for a Before and After Care program, please contact your provider for more information regarding the start time for before and after care.

What to Bring

Please send your child to school with:

  • a mask (strongly encouraged but not required for Kindergarten students)
  • snack and lunch
  • change of clothes
  • sunscreen and hat
  • water bottle

Please label all of your child’s items with their name.

Health and Safety

We ask families to remember that, as a result of health and safety guidelines:

  • On a daily basis, parents/guardians of students under 18 and students over 18 are responsible to review and adhere to the checklist from York Region Public Health. Any student experiencing COVID-19 symptoms is required to remain home.
  • Where possible, students must maintain a physical distance at all times, as they enter, move through and exit the building.
  • Students in Grades 4 to 12 will wear non-medical masks while in school. Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 are strongly encouraged to wear masks while in school. Please send your child to school with a mask.
  • Until further notice, visitor(s) are not to enter the school during hours of operation unless identified through a prearranged exception.
  • We are minimizing class sizes as much as possible. Students will remain with their class throughout the day, including for lunch and recess.
  • Floor decals and classroom set-up are designed to minimize close contact.
  • Hand sanitizers will be placed at the entrance to the school and in all classrooms and students will wash or sanitize their hands throughout the day, including when entering or leaving the classroom, before and after eating, after using the washroom and after touching shared objects.

Supporting Transitions

We also want to assure you that our caring, skilled and professional staff members are well prepared to support student learning and well-being in this transition back to school. We know that the closures affected families differently, and that some students may not have been able to access learning as regularly, or experienced disruptions in their routines. We will work with you and your child to support your child’s mental health, well-being and academics during this transition back to school and to our new school routines.

If you have any specific concerns about your child’s well-being or transition back to school, please speak with your child’s teacher.

We have a dedicated staff with a strong commitment to student well-being and achievement, and to promoting positive, inclusive and supportive relationships with students, families, staff and community members. We are committed to providing a learning environment where everyone feels safe, welcome and respected.

We look forward to welcoming you and your child back to school.

Ms. Mida

Supported Entry

Welcome Letter from Principal – Elementary (Grades 1-8)

September 2, 2020 Dear families,

I hope you are healthy and doing well, and had a restful summer. We look forward to welcoming our new and returning students and families. While we were connecting online, we missed our students and look forward to welcoming them back.

This letter contains important information about the return to school. Please review it. I also encourage families to visit www.yrdsb.ca/school-reopening for videos, frequently asked questions, important health and safety information and more about the school reopening. There is a translation tool on the website that will translate the content into over 100 languages.

School Return Dates and Procedures

This year, we will be delaying students’ return to school to give school staff time to prepare for your child’s return. For the first few days of school, we will be welcoming students back in smaller groups to give them additional time to learn and practice our new health and safety measures, and to support their transition back to school after the school closures.

Typically, your homeroom classroom teacher placement is provided on the first day of school. This year, as we finalize the staffing process and timetables for students, we are working to provide you with your child’s homeroom class placement before school begins. We will send you a follow up communication with this information.

Grades 1-8

If your child’s last name begins with A-K, they will:

  • Begin school on Thursday, September 10 (they will not go to school Friday, September 11).
  • Attend school Monday, September (they will not go to school Tuesday, September 15).
  • They will begin attending school every day with their full class on Wednesday, September

If your child’s last name begins with L-Z, they will:

  • Begin school on Friday, September 11.
  • Attend school Tuesday, September (they will not go to school Monday, September 14).
  • They will begin attending school every day with their full class on Wednesday, September

When students arrive at school on their first day, they should go to the back tarmac area. Homeoom teachers will be holding grade signs and have class lists. We ask that parents remember social distancing must be adhered. Once your child has identified their teacher, please wait at the back area of the tarmac or head on home.

Health and Safety

We ask families to remember that, as a result of health and safety guidelines:

  • On a daily basis, parents/guardians of students under 18 and students over 18 are responsible to review and adhere to the checklist from York Region Public Health. Any student experiencing COVID-19 symptoms is required to remain
  • Where possible, students must maintain a physical distance at all times, as they enter, move through and exit the
  • Students in Grades 4 to 12 will wear face non-medical masks while in Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 are strongly encouraged to wear masks while in school. Please send your child to school with a mask.
  • Until further notice, visitor(s) are not to enter the school during hours of operation unless identified through a prearranged
  • We are doing what we can to minimize class Students will remain with their class throughout the day, including for lunch and recess.
  • Floor decals and classroom set-up are designed to minimize close
  • Hand sanitizers will be placed at the entrance to the school and in all classrooms and students will wash or sanitize their hands throughout the day, including when entering or leaving the classroom, before and after eating, after using the washroom and after touching shared objects

Supporting Transitions

We also want to assure you that our caring, skilled and professional staff members are well prepared to support student learning and well-being in this transition back to school. We know that the closures affected families differently, and that some students may not have been able to access learning as regularly, or experienced disruptions in their routines. We will work with you and your child to support your child’s mental health, well-being and academics during this transition back to school and to our new school routines.

If you have any specific concerns about your child’s well-being or transition back to school, please speak with your child’s teacher.

We have a dedicated staff with a strong commitment to student well-being and achievement, and to promoting positive, inclusive and supportive relationships with students, families, staff and community members. We are committed to providing a learning environment where everyone feels safe, welcome and respected.

We look forward to welcoming you and your child back to school.

Ms. Mida