By Austin Perry, Social Emotional Learning Specialist
While most of the world is continuing to overcome the pain and hardship caused by the pandemic, many of us have been fortunate enough to return to a life of relative normalcy. Despite being back at work, and most children returning to school in person, there are some aspects of this transition that have gone largely unaddressed. This is the topic of expectations. It can be easy to be lulled into having the same hopes and expectations for our children and their academic and social abilities. After all, they are back in their school, with their friends and teachers, shouldn’t our expectations be back to where they were two years ago? It is essential that we look at the greater context of our children’s situations.
Despite our children being back in school, and back in the classroom, there is an undeniable impact that the pandemic has had on their development. Without the experiences of peer interactions and classroom instruction, there are key foundational gaps that children are having to overcome as they make their way back to the classroom. While it can be tempting to feel that development will happen regardless of the circumstances children are presented with, there have been countless missed experiences that children would typically have at this stage in their lives.
This is where the importance of expectations comes in. While a child may meet the age requirement for their current grade, they have likely missed out on some of the experiences that would place them at their expected developmental stage. Without challenges children cannot grow developmentally in the ways we would typically expect, and that is why we must understand the importance of having patience as children have these key experiences now. There is a distinct temptation to feel that our children must meet the academic, social and cultural expectations that we have for them, but it is essential to take into consideration the greater context of their situation. They were forced into an unknown and inconsistent situation, while losing much of the stability they had come to expect.
It is through perspective and consideration that we can best support our children during this time. While they may be back in a familiar setting it is important to develop new expectations for their ability at this stage in their lives. It is time to validate their resilience and strength in overcoming the challenges of the pandemic, and give them grace in this time while they develop the foundation they need to overcome future challenges.