Families face separation concerns.
After quarantines and closures, students aren’t the only ones feeling some back-to-school anxieties.
Going back to school or daycare can be daunting for even the most eager students, but, for 2020 babies and their parents, the prospect of separation may be entirely novel. Nicole Dennis of The Goddard School of Minnetonka is part of an ownership team with her husband, Brandt Dennis, and Aaron and Lisa Amic. Nicole observes that parents may be feeling a bit more anxious about the prospect of preschool this year, but there are steps they can take to help prepare both themselves and their kids.
“It has been really interesting. We’ve gotten very few questions about the education program, which I think probably before the pandemic was a hot topic,” Nicole says. Over the course of quarantine closures, she says concerns about the new preschool and daycare center mainly revolved around health and safety. “We talked about the precautions that we are taking as far as an ionization system that was put in to purify the air and our [ZONO Disinfecting and Sanitizing Cabinet used to disinfect toys and objects],” she says.
But now, concerns are shifting toward children who haven’t spent time away from their parents for the last few years, if not their entire lifetimes. Socialization is a big motivator for enrolling in preschool programs, but many parents are feeling just as much separation anxiety as their tiny tots this year. “Parents had [their kids] all day every day, and they’re really close,” Nicole says, adding, “Parents more than ever are looking for [part-time options].”
The Goddard School of Minnetonka is offering part-time daycare options for all ages except for infants, which isn’t always an option daycare centers offer. Brandt Dennis says one of their aims is flexibility. “It’s not like [parents] have to drop [their kids] off at 7 a.m. and can’t pick them up until 6 [p.m.],” he says. “There’s some flexibility to shorten their days if they need to or to start with a part-time schedule and go to full time if they want to later.”
Although socialization is one of the main motivators for parents looking to enroll their children in daycare, Nicole says structure and individual responsibility are two equally important lessons kids learn through daycare programs. “At The Goddard School, the kids are expected to clean up after themselves and—especially the older kids—clear their lunch trays and feed themselves,” Nicole says, noting that, in a one-on-one environment, children may not learn this kind of independence.
Another element that fell by the wayside during the pandemic was routine, Nicole says. “I think, during the pandemic, families got a lot less structure. At first, that was really good; it was nice to stay in bed and stay in your pajamas all day long, but as time went on and the pandemic lasted longer than anybody thought, that lack of structure set kids back a little,” she says. From breakfast time to bedtime, routines became more sporadic for many, which may make the transition back to school or daycare hard for some.
Nicole says that reestablishing routine in kids’ lives before the school year or enrollment in a daycare program can help make the transition easier. From waking them up and getting them dressed to having meals at a consistent time, these small steps are an easy way to prepare for returning to the swing of things or joining a classroom for the first time.