Mum of five Kellie shares some ideas to help support your children (and yourself) in the lead up to returning back to school.
A short few months ago, the coronavirus forced schools to shut down, and remote learning was launched overnight, disrupting routines and causing chaos for many families across Ireland. Some children really struggled, my own included and now that schools are set to resume later this month we must start creating positive associations with going back to school in a bid to make the transition a little easier.
Going forward, there will be many unfamiliar experiences with new routines, schedules, guidelines, and for most, if not all students, things will look very different from how they did before. If your child is anxious about returning to school, try these simple steps to help reduce any negatives feeling them may have.
Talk about going back to school
If your child is feeling worried about returning to in-class learning, make a plan to help them feel more in control. Open conversations about their new routine although try to keep it less rigid and reassuring. However, try to provide as much information as you can. Talk about how they will get to school, what will happen when they arrive, where they will eat lunch and where you will be at pick-up time or who will be collecting them.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep
As we learned throughout the pandemic, nothing is guaranteed. When talking to your child about school and what to expect, use language like “probably” and “might”, let’s face it, we don’t know for sure what things will look like just yet. You are your child’s safe space, reassure them the new measures that are in place are there to protect them and their families.
Try to make the transition back to school as fun as possible. Does your child need a school bag, a uniform, new runners or maybe some new stationery? Make a day of it and get all the bits your child needs for the new school year together and maybe even through in an ice-cream or a trip to the local playground afterwards.
Think happy thoughts
Returning to school will mean reuniting friends and teachers they haven’t seen in months. Reflect on this as it will create a sense of excitement and create positive associations with going back to school as they will be able to chat and play with friends once again.
Re-establish a routine
During the lockdown, everyone’s routine went out of the window. Kids stayed up well past bedtime, watched TV while eating breakfast, and in some cases, they probably didn’t get dressed until after midday or got dressed at all. Now is the time to start restoring a family routine. Starting now, try to gradually get them back to their pre-COVID morning and nighttime routine to help ease into school life.
Don’t just assume your child is excited to go back to school; some kids are better at hiding their feelings than others. Talk to your child about how they are feeling and if they are feeling worried or scared, acknowledge it and tell them it is normal to feel this way. If you feel like your child is really with their mental health, reach out for professional support from their school or family doctor.
And remember to be kind to yourself. The last few months have been an emotional rollercoaster and if you are feeling worried or anxious, know that it’s normal. Take care of yourself so you can talk care of your child.