Preparing Children for a New School Year in a Pandemic

Dr. T. Jann Caison-Sorey

| 3 min read

Dr. T. Jann Caison-Sorey is a pediatrician, adolescent medicine physician and senior medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Mom helping teen daughter with online classes
Children returning to school is always a special time of year. But due to COVID-19, this fall may be particularly challenging. The transition from in-school classes to online learning has been abrupt. It’s been a major adjustment for parents, children and their teachers alike. Here are some tips on how everyone can better prepare themselves for what’s ahead.

Establish a Routine

After months away, the expectation of a traditional school schedule may seem overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to start practicing time management now, specifically in the mornings and at night. Begin by implementing the following behaviors:
  • Gradually adjust bedtime to be 15 minutes earlier each night. Grade school students need 9 to 12 hours of sleep. If a child must be awake at 6 a.m., their bedtime should be around 8 p.m.
  • Have an evening schedule with limits that allows free time outside of homework.
  • Set time restrictions for all electronics.
  • Unplug at least an hour before bedtime.

Prepare for Online Learning

While virtual classes aren’t necessarily new, they may be a larger and more permanent part of the school year. Here are four ways to set children up for success:
  • Create a dedicated workspace with limited distractions. It should be equipped with all the materials and supplies necessary for learning.
  • Reach out to your child’s school and their teacher. Ask about online learning and study guides. Focus on important subject matter and look for additional information on upcoming lessons.
  • Remember to encourage movement and breaks throughout the day.
  • Set time limits for online classes and study.

Schedule a Doctor’s Appointment

Regular doctor’s visits are critical to tracking growth, development and obtaining recommended vaccinations. This includes influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, rotavirus, polio, pneumonia and meningitis, among others. Throughout COVID-19, many routine checkups have been postponed. But it’s more important than ever to maintain these visits. Ask your doctor about their current safety protocols and if telehealth is a viable option. Learn what is required and follow the necessary precautions.

Understand Mental Health Challenges

This school year will likely change how students learn and interact. That means a disruption in traditional activities and less face-to-face socialization with friends. For some, this could be a difficult adjustment that takes a serious toll. Children are often resilient, but parents and caregivers should watch for subtle warning signs of potential problems:
  • Behavioral Changes: These could include tiredness, insomnia or oversleeping, as well as changes in appetite. The child may also have body aches or headaches, practice poor hygiene, engage in risky behavior, self-harm or substance use.
  • Emotional Changes: These could include feelings of sadness, hopelessness and a loss of interest in usual activities. Children may also have low self-esteem, guilt and a fixation on past failures. Some can be extremely sensitive to rejection, and experience thoughts of suicide.
If symptoms persist and interfere with a child’s normal routine, contact a mental health professional. Look for someone who specializes in children and adolescent behavior (like a psychiatrist, psychologist or a specialist in behavioral health). There are also additional resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Parents can also utilize Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s free crisis hotline at 833-848-1764. The service is available to both members and non-members. More from
Photo credit: JohnnyGreig

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.


MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association