It’s a big week this week with our kids returning to school. Some of them haven’t been in for 6 months. Some are starting high school, having had no formal transition programme. It’s not going to be easy and even those children who want to go back will find challenges ahead as we all try and ease into this new routine. But we’re all about resilience here, and teaching our kids that life will sometimes throw up challenges and situations that we can’t control, but what we can control is our response, and how we handle those difficult events.
It’s important to understand that our children will be anxious. That’s a very valid response to a difficult situation. Perhaps the best thing we can do for them is make sure that they have safe space to come home to. A safe port in a storm where they are nurtured, listened to, and loved. This can help to make whatever the day may throw at them, a little easier to bear.
We’ve put together some ideas of other ways that you can help your kids navigate their way through this difficult time.
1. The night before. Nothing will set you on course for a bad day more than being disorganised in the morning. Help your children to learn the importance of being prepared for the next morning, the night before. Perhaps they could write a checklist and put it on their bedroom wall. Bags can be packed and ready to go, uniform laid out, shoes where they can be easily found. It’s likely that school rules will be different. Will they need masks? Are they allowed to take a bag? Make sure that you, and they, know all of this well in advance. Teach them to be their future friend. Running around in the morning looking for pencil cases, homework or socks, can all add an extra dollop of stress which is really not needed. Smooth mornings lead to better days, whatever age we are and preparing for the next day the night before is a valuable life skill.
2. Keep mornings upbeat, as much as possible. Talk about the positives of returning to school, like catching up with friends, getting back into a routine, and really looking forward to the weekends again. Having music playing can help to lift morning moods too. Think about giving the children something to look forward to after school. Their favourite dinner, a walk, swim, family time, time with their pets, whatever it may be, it gives them something to look forward to throughout the day and reminds them that there is more to life than school, if they’re really not enjoying it.
3. Be very matter of fact when discussing school and the new routine. As much as we can put things in place to make life easier, some things just have to be done. If we stay calm, and don’t budge on the important things, our children will feel calmer too.
4. After school, if at all possible, try to give each child your undivided attention. Show an interest in their day. Listen to them for any exciting news, but also any worries they have that you can reassure them about. Early reassurance can help to stop anxieties for escalating and rearing their head at bedtime. Questioning children directly about their day won’t always reap the best results. How many children answer the ‘what did you do in school today?’ question with ‘I can’t remember’ or ‘nothing’, but creating that space and that block of time to talk, even if it’s not about school, can help children to open up when they are ready to
5. None of us know what will happen over the next few months, and uncertainty can be really worrying. It’s our job to give our children the reassurance that they need, the love and hugs and the safe place to come home to at the end of the day. We need our kids to know that it isn’t their responsibility to worry about what’s going to happen next and they can let parents, teachers and other grown ups do that. Teach them about what they can and can’t control and how important it is not to waste time worrying about things that they can’t.
Let’s not forget ourselves in all of this. We are so used to having our children around us all the time now, it’s going to be hard sending them off to school even if it’s a bit of a relief as well. Remember that old adage, ‘you can’t pour from an empty jug’. Our kids need us to be happy, healthy and in control, as much as we possibly can be, so be sure to make time for self care.
Remember that you can always find support from other parents over on the free Facebook group, or maybe your experiences can help someone else – look forward to seeing you there.
Have a great week!