A boy wears a red Save the Children hat and a cloth face mask while standing outside.

This year, Save the Children’s SummerBoost camp was held virtually, but in past years kids like 9-year old Ayden attended in person. Photo credit: Victoria Zegler / Save the Children.

Our Experts Weigh in on How to Help Children Understand School Closures

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact children, families and communities across America, Save the Children strongly believes that any return to in-person school reopening must only happen if it is safe for both children and the adults who care for them to come together.

While some school districts have unveiled plans not to repoen this fall, others have announced they will reopen with full-time, in-person instruction. In a statement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted "no other setting has more influence on a child’s health and wellbeing than their school." 

Here, Save the Children’s experts, in partnership with The MHPSS Collaborative, offer tips for how to support the mental and emotional wellbeing of children as they look ahead to the 2020-2021 school year.

Why can’t we go to school:
Helping children understand why schools are closed

  • Explain that it’s important for us to stay at home to protect our older family members, neighbors, friends and community – this is why schools are closed for now – to keep us all safe at home.
  • Tell children you will let them know as soon as you have more information about schools reopening.
  • Reassure your child that the schools won’t be closed forever, and that you will help them to continue learning until they are able to go to back to school again.

Coping with closed schools:
Caring for your children and yourself

  • Try to be patient and find ways to manage your child’s range of emotions, as well as your own.
  • If children are feeling very upset, you can say: “What you are feeling is very hard right now, but it is very common to react this way when you are afraid/angry/sad. Many kids are experiencing the same feelings as you.”
  • For younger children, continue to engage in playful activities. For older children, try and talk to them about ways to manage their distress.
  • Staying connected to friends, teachers, grandparents, or distant family can also help children cope – write or draw pictures to give later, send messages or connect virtually.
  • Reassure your child that going to school is very important and many people are working hard so that the schools can reopen as soon as possible.
  • Explain that until schools reopen, there are lots of things to do together so they continue learning.
  • Explain to your children that sometimes you also feel uncertain, frustrated or worried.

Keep learning:
Help your child continue learning even when schools are closed

  • Remind your child that they are still a school student, even if the school is closed.
  • Supporting children to continue learning will help them feel positive about the future and ready to return to school as soon as they reopen.
  • Continue your household’s usual daily routine, close to the school hours if possible.
  • If you do not have access to learning materials, you can still help children learn:
  • Talk to your children about your daily tasks.
  • Share positive memories from your own childhood.
  • Count aloud together, invent games or songs, or discuss a big idea or tradition.
  • Encourage your child to practice skills and knowledge that they already have.
  • While academic learning is important, remaining safe and well is the most important priority for everyone. Learning how to cope with this crisis is also important learning.
  • Encourage children living together to learn together. Older siblings can help explain difficult subjects to younger children.

You're not alone. As a national leader in early childhood education, Save the Children will continue to support and supplement learning – whether it takes place in-person, virtually or in a hybrid model, in the nation’s most rural communities. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been publishing free learning resources and materials to help parents and caregivers, including weekly activities and tips on how to help children cope with school closures.

With your help, we are also working to make sure kids can learn and get the nutrition they need during this crisis. In the months ahead, Save the Children will continue to ensure children receive nutritious meals whether in a school building or at home.

Learn more about our response to COVID-19 and work across America to keep children healthy, educated and save.

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