Transitioning back to school after the COVID-19 lockdown may feel overwhelming for many families. We’ve found some simple tips to guide you and your family through this process.
Each child has been affected differently
Each child and family has had a unique lockdown experience. Some children may have felt relatively safe and stable, even if bored and frustrated during this time, while others may have experienced extreme stress, loss and trauma. It is important to be aware that returning to school after this lockdown period is not the same as returning to school after a long holiday. Many things will be different at school and new rules will be in place that may feel strange.
Here are a few guidelines that may help you to prepare your children for the return to school:
Encourage conversation: Your child may be feeling a mix of emotions at the prospect of returning to school. They may feel excited to see their friends and teachers again but may also be anxious about new rules and procedures as well as the risks. Allow them to voice their thoughts and worries and be sure to take their concerns seriously. Academic and social pressures can feel quite overwhelming on their own, and now there is the added layer of risk of infection, new social distancing norms and the pressure to catch up on lost school time.
Provide reassurance: Children have had to adjust to many changes during lockdown and now they are being asked to make another huge change in returning to school. Discuss with your child how they can stay safe at school, such as washing hands and sanitising, staying aware of social distancing etc. In addition, share as much information as you can about changes to their school routine, classroom layout and other differences that can be expected so as to prepare them in advance.
Re-establish routine: Most families will have settled into some version of ‘lockdown routine’ which may involve later bedtimes and waking times, amongst other things. Start phasing in new routines a week or two before your child returns to school, such as earlier bedtimes, so as to ease them into the transition.
Motivate learning: Show interest and curiosity in what your child is learning once they’re back at school and speak to them often. This indicates that you’re making an effort and are noticing their efforts and provides a sense of encouragement and support. Asking open-ended yet simple questions, such as “How was your day?” can initiate opportunities for your child to open up and share what’s going on for them. Do everything you can to maintain strong bonds and open lines of communication so that they feel they can discuss anything with you.
Think ahead: While it’s important to reflect on what has happened over recent weeks and months, it is also important to encourage a sense of excitement about the future. Despite much uncertainty and many challenges around staying positive, helping your child to identify things that they look forward to in the future will help them to realise that the current situation won’t last forever.
Look after yourself: As a parent juggling multiple roles and stresses as well as those that your children are encountering, it is completely understandable to feel overwhelmed and stretched thin. Seek support in any way that is appropriate, whether that be support from school for your child or professional support for yourself, be it for physical, emotional or mental health and wellbeing. Reach out to friends, family and community and remember that we’re all in this together!