Joanna Fortune shares some creative and play based ways to manage the anxieties of back to school time for both parent and child.
We were absolutely delighted to chat to Joanna Fortune about such an important topic this week. While information is still quite limited regarding specific measures and rules, schools across the country are preparing to open their doors and welcome students in a short number of weeks.
Psychotherapist, Parenting Author and Media consultant on child development issues Joanna Fortune helps us prepare our children for change as we approach back to school time. She shares some creative and play based ways to help manage the anxieties and fears we all may be experiencing in the lead up to such a significant time.
Play A Game Of Feeling Eyes
Mask wearing is something that is going to be a big part of our new normal. According to Joanna this can be uncomfortable for children as they are immediately drawn to the part of the face that is covered up. She suggests playing a simple game of "feeling eyes" to help normalize the idea. Simply cover the lower part of your face with a piece of paper or card and express a range of emotions using only your eyes.
Turn it in to a game and ask the child to guess which emotion you are expressing. It doesn't matter if they get the emotion right or wrong. Joanna recommends focusing on effort rather than outcome as you are trying to encourage them to focus on the part of the face they can see rather than the part they cannot see.
Use Books To Explore Big Feelings
Books are a fantastic way to explore different emotions and situations with your child. There is a book that touches on every big feeling a young person may be feeling and it is a powerful way to work through that in a play based manner. According to Joanna books help our children develop a language around feelings.
Joanna recommends the book "The Worrysaurus" by Rachel Bright to address feelings of worry. In this book the Worrysaurus gets a butterfly stuck in his tummy and it leads him to some "uh-oh" feelings and wobbles. In the book his mother helps him work out those feelings.
Focus On How They CAN Interact With Their Friends
For so long now we have been telling our children how not to behave around other people. We've been explaining that they shouldn't hug or stand too close to someone. We have expressed the importance of proper hand hygiene and coughing etiquette. Joanna recommends re-framing some of this in a positive way and speaking about the ways that they will be able to interact with their friends when they return to school.
Joanna recommends the book "While We Can't Hug" by Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar. It is the beautiful sequel to the book "The Hug" and it explores the various ways that friends can interact in the absence of hugs. It suggests writing letters, winking and dancing. It reminds children that there are a lot of ways to connect with our friends.
Top Up Their Little Love Cups
Topping up our children's sense of confidence and self belief is really important at this time. Joanna recommends doing this rather than saying it. She recommends the book "I Like Myself" by Karen Beaumont as a brilliant way to celebrate the joy of liking who you are.
Introduce Back To School Bed-Times
Joanna recommends introducing back to school bed-times and wake-up times about 7-10 days before school starts. This will help everyone to readjust ahead of time and it will be one less thing to worry about.
Don't Forget About Yourself
With all that you are juggling as a parent don't forget to take time for yourself. Joanna recommends taking fifteen minutes to breathe, ground yourself, have a cup of tea, take a walk or simply sit. You've got this.
For more helpful advice check out Joanna Fortune's 15 Minute Parenting Podcast.