top of page
Preparing for Back-to-School During a Pandemic
By Stephanie Hewitt with Learning Pathways, 07/30/2020

Whether your child is starting school with distance learning or in-person, school looks different this year. Here are some tips for preparing your child and family for the start of school.

General Tips

  1. Start prioritizing a reasonable bedtime and wake time. Many families relax rules around bedtime during the summer. It is important that students get a healthy amount of sleep when school starts so they’re ready to learn. Gradually move back bedtime and wake time toward the times your family will need to stick to when school starts.

  2. Have a positive attitude. Children look to the adults in their lives as cues for their own reactions. Monitor your own reactions about the school-year starting and reassure your children that school will be okay, no matter how it looks this year. Avoid having negative or criticizing discussions about school in front of your children.

  3. Give yourself some grace. School this year has never-before-seen challenges. Many parents must support their children’s learning at home while also working from home themselves. Do the best you can and remind yourself that you are doing your best to manage some challenging times.

  4. Incorporate social interaction when possible and safe. Children are going to have less social interactions than normal. Try to incorporate social interaction when feasible, whether in person with family or a select pod of families, or virtually.

  5. Monitor mental health and well-being. If your child seems excessively anxious or depressed or exhibits behavioral challenges that aren’t improving with time, get help from your child’s school by asking to speak with the counselor or psychologist, talk to your child’s pediatrician, or find a therapist or psychologist.


For Distance Learning

  1. Prepare your learning environment. Designate an area of the home for your child’s distance learning. Buy or gather the necessary school supplies and get organized. To get more buy-in from your child, allow them to personalize their learning space by decorating, choosing their favorite colors or patterns for school materials and supplies, or adding some stuffed animal friends for younger students.

  2. Maintain open communication with your child’s teacher. Once distance learning gets going, communicate any frustrations or questions directly with your child’s teacher. Remember they are also adapting and learning a whole new way of teaching, and they may not know if something is or isn’t working for your family.

  3. Create a visual schedule. Post a calendar or daily schedule to help facilitate independence and create a routine. Again, involve students in making it their own by using different colored markers, post-its, magnets, etc. For older students, check in with them at the beginning of the day and ask them to review their daily tasks or activities with you. Check in at the end of the school day as well to review how the day went. For younger students, check in before and after each task if possible.

  4. Use a timer or alarm clock. Set alarms for 10-minutes before any virtual learning lessons are going to start.

  5. Incorporate a behavior management system if needed. If your child is excited for school to start and is self-motivated, let them know how proud you are of their motivation and hard work. If your child is disinterested and struggles to engage in distance learning, consider using an incentive chart or system. For more information, see Motivating Your Child.  


For In-Person Learning

  1. Review and practice any necessary health and hygiene practices, such as wearing a mask and washing hands. Check with your school to see what the requirements will be and inform your child ahead of time if they will be required to wear a mask for the duration of the school day. Allow them to choose the pattern or design on their masks.

  2. Discuss ahead of time how school might look different, such as social distancing, desks farther apart, everyone wearing masks, possibly eating lunch in the classroom, and no assemblies or whole-school gatherings.

  3. Get prepared and buy or gather all required materials. Schools likely won’t be able to provide universal supplies for a class to share. Let your child pick their own colors and designs. Label all materials.

  4. Set up a station at home where students wash their hands and disinfect any materials upon arrival.

  5. Develop a back-up plan if school were to close and switch to distance learning.


Even though school will certainly look different this year, with some preparation, organization, and positivity, students can have a successful school year and come out more resilient than ever.



Special thanks to the following educators for their input on this article: Shauna McClure, Valerie Richards, Cindy Jensen, Susan Chase, Heidi Burns, Katie Webb, and Pam Graves.



Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020, July 23. “Back to School Planning: Checklists to Guide Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers.”

Thompson, Courtney. 2020, July 27. “Your 2020 back-to-school checklist to protect against Covid-19.” CNN.

bottom of page