Colorado child psychiatrist advises parents to talk to children about school's protocols before return to classroom

Children returning to school
Posted at 6:00 AM, Aug 09, 2021

DENVER — The first day of school can come with its share of stress for teachers, parents and students. This year seems to come with an added sense of pressure, especially when it comes to public health guidelines in schools.

"We're trying to prepare ourselves for it," said Lacey Rosales, who has two children in JeffCo Public Schools.

For their district, masks are required for kids ages 3 to 11 and are recommended for anyone 12 and up, regardless of vaccination status. Rosales said she would have liked parents to make the final choice on the use of masks for her children.

"It's really hard for me to understand that we have hosted the Rockies All-Star Game, and most things are open 100% capacity, but our kids are going to have to go back to school with masks," she said.

Because many school districts have different protocols, doctors say it's crucial parents have honest conversations with their children.

"We want to really clear expectations with them so there is no confusion about what the rule is," said Chris Piatz, child and adolescent psychiatrist with Denver Health.

Piatz said parents can help by validating their children's concerns and leading by example.

"Ask them, 'What are you afraid of? What are the worries you have?' Sometimes, kids can actually when you sit down with them and talk about (it), they’re afraid of mom and dad getting sick or they’re afraid of grandpa and grandma getting sick," Piatz said.

These conversations could help prepare students when they walk in the classroom.

"When you really sit down with a kid and listen to them, they actually appreciate that," Piatz said.

When students begin following the school’s rules, parents can also reward that behavior.

"Is this part of their allowance? Is this part of giving praise? Is this part of giving them some reward or having a system set up to acknowledge that they're doing something they don't want to do?" he said.

Piatz said having these conversations can help with your children’s mental health so they’re less stressed when they head back to school.