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Helping Younger Children Advance When School Life's Been Upended

Sign for Lake Magadalene Elementary in Hillsborough County
Susan Giles Wantuck/WUSF Public Media
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Let's face it, life is hard with the ever-looming specter of coronavirus. School has been online for it seems like forever and now children are having to deal with milestone transitions like moving from elementary school to middle school in a not-so-ordinary way.

Professor Judy Bryant of the University of South Florida said while you may not be able to actually go inside the school your child will attend in the coming year, you can drive by and show them, so they get used to the idea.

"But at least you can say, 'Hey, this is where we are going to do drop-off, or where the bus is going to go, or where you can ride your bicycle and lock it up,' at least become familiar as best you can," she said.

She said this is especially true for younger children, including those who may be starting daycare.

She said while students are not going to have the traditional "5th grade clap-out," she is glad some schools are doing "drive-thru" clap-outs to help students celebrate.

"These are losses, we don't have these culturally important practices that mark the ends of important experiences or the beginnings of others," Bryant said.

And she said, it's important for parents to listen to their children who are dealing with that sense of loss for what might have been, or who are just missing their classmates and teachers. And especially for younger children, she said parents need to make sure they are not reacting negatively because children take their emotional cues from their parents.

Bryant said if older students have a way to connect to their classmates virtually, she said the students might be able to do a group project, for example fifth graders could write a communal story, "or a number of them doing illustrations or something where they're collaborating with others to do something special for the people they care about, whether it's their classroom teacher or specials teachers or the school librarian, or front office people, I think that's a way to document their feelings and express them to other people, as well."

Copyright 2020 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Susan Giles Wantuck is our midday news host, and a producer and reporter for WUSF Public Media who focuses her storytelling on arts, culture and history.