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Expert shares tips on transitioning kids back to school

Published: Mar. 13, 2021 at 6:17 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - An expert in childhood development has tips for parents navigating a transition back to school.

The Madison Metropolitan School District will continue its phased approach back to the classroom, after kindergarteners returned this week. Starting Tuesday, first and second graders will go back for four full days of in person instruction.

Dr. Heather Kirkorian, an associate professor at UW-Madison specializing in the relationship between childhood development and technology, says some kids struggled with remote learning while others thrived. This is why she says individualized transition plans are so important.

A smooth transition begins with an honest conversation. She said, “Validating and acknowledging kids’ anxieties is really important and working with them to develop plans together to manage that.”

She also suggests talking through strategies and tools to overcome anxiety, as well as mindfulness techniques to be used at school. “[Focus] on the things they’re excited about,” she added.

Overall, Dr. Kirkorian says kids will adapt quickly to the classroom, but she hopes parents will continue some practices of the past, when many of them spent whole school days with their children.

“Research shows that kids thrive in schools when their parents are engaged and staying in close contact with schools and know what their kids are doing in school [and] ask about it,” Dr. Kirkorian said.

MMSD parent Vanessa Best said she has prepared her children for the switch back to in person learning. Her son Silas will return to Crestwood Elementary on Tuesday, after she “[explained] to him that it’s not going to be like kindergarten was, where all the kids come in and you can hug your friends and your teacher.”

MMSD is bringing students back by grade levels. In its reopening plan, the district said the next group of students to follow first and second graders will be those in 4K. They are set to return on March 23 for two full days of instruction, either in person or virtual.

The final group of students to return will be those in grades 7, 8, 10 and 11 on April 27.

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