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Child therapist offers advice on how parents can help kids adapt to Covid-changed world

Here's how to best prepare your kids for a return to school amid the continuing pandemic.

ATLANTA — Many parents are learning first hand that preparation for this new school year is going way beyond the traditional supply list.

To help those unsure parents navigate tricky Covid conversations, 11Alive's Kaitlyn Winey spoke with a local child therapist, who's offering helpful advice.

Melani McGriff, the executive director of Kid's Creek Therapy, is helping parents - who are also becoming students again in their own way - learn how to best prepare their kids for a return to school amid the continuing pandemic.

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"As parents, our words, our tone of speech and our actions play a really powerful role in how our children respond to difficult topics and situations," McGriff said.

Her most basic advice for parents with young children struggling with changes due to COVID-19: Patience and understanding.

"Many people don't understand that the part of our brain that processes change is the same part of our brain that processes pain," she said. "And a lot of times, when you're approaching change you have to remember that small children can still have very big feelings."

No matter the age, she explained, it's important to be open and honest.

"Communicate to the kids - there are some germs going around, and we have to do our part to not spread the germs. Empower them and let them know that they're the ones that can achieve this goal and they're the one that can be the helper," she said. "And it's important as well to remember that you do have to get them to work up to a tolerance. If you're expecting a child to walk in to school the very first day and have a mask on the very first time, that is probably not going to work. We would suggest practice together wearing a mask at home."

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And while we're helping our kids adapt to this new school year, McGriff reminds us it's not just what you say, but how you say it.

"Whether we're doing teaching at home or whether we're going into the schools, make sure that we're communicating positively either way about it," she said. "If children are hearing negative ... they're going to soak that up. Kids are listening, and they will most likely mimic what their parents are modeling."