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How do I know if my son will be ready for school with the pandemic?

Wondering if your little is ready for school? Here's how to navigate going back to school amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Dear Is This Normal,

How do I know if my 4 year old boy will be ready for school in this pandemic? He is home with me and has very little time in preschool, maybe 3 months.

Signed,

Ready or Not

Dear Ready or Not,

Oh, the million dollar question! The last 18ish months have certainly thrown a lot of us for a loop, haven’t they? Timelines have shifted, plans have changed, priorities have been reordered on our list. While parents definitely weighed this question pre-pandemic, the events of the last year plus and all the lifestyle changes we’ve adapted to (big and small) have made the question and answer much…heavier. The short answer: you won’t know until you put him in preschool! The longer answer is a bit more involved. Getting ready to go back to school after the pandemic is new territory for all of us.

So prior to 2020, when parents pondered whether or not their kids were ready for preschool or kinder, we all had the same basic list of questions/concerns (more or less). Does our child do ok away from us? How do they handle transitions? Do they still nap? How do they interact with their peers? Going from being home with a parent or in a private childcare setting to sharing a classroom with new adults and new kids can be very overwhelming! It’s a big change, and one that can involve a lot of planning or preparation. And you know what, we still have those same questions, but coming out of a global freaking pandemic, we also have a million more questions now, too. 

Aside from the very general questions I mentioned above, there are other, more panny-specific concerns I’m sure you have. We’ve all spent the better part of the last year and change at home, with just our families and maybe a few close friends. Socialization took a big hit, and I think our kids felt it most. Plus, I don’t know about your kids, but mine are stuck to me like GLUE after spending every waking moment of every day by my side. So a normally tough transition (starting school for the first time) may be even tougher for younger kiddos when you factor in heightened separation anxiety and less-developed socialization skills. Then you add to that the policies, procedures, and safety measures your school may have in place. With the situation around the country shifting daily, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of schools will still have various safety measures in place come fall, and you need to prepare yourself and your boy for those.

But, if I’m being completely honest with you here: there is just no way to know if your kiddo is ready to start school until you give it a try. Summer is the time to research local preschools and set up interviews and visits—the more he sees his new school and the more time he spends there leading up to the first day, the more comfortable he’ll be. Talk about school as often as possible, and use books and episodes of his favorite kids’ shows to help explain the process. Involve him in the process as much as possible, so he doesn’t feel blindsided when the big day comes. Most importantly, keep your expectations realistic! Starting school is a big deal, even in the most ideal circumstances, and you should prepare for a bumpy adjustment for the first few weeks. And remember, nothing you do is set in stone. If you give it a try and he’s really not ready, you take a break and try again in a month or two. He’s not going to “fall behind” if he doesn’t do a full year of preschool, or if he doesn’t go to school at all before kindergarten. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that our kids are more adaptable and resilient than we ever thought possible. 

Ready When You Are,

Is This Normal

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