So, the day is finally almost here, and schools are going to reopen! You may be breathing a huge sigh of relief that your teacher duties are now almost over or you may have decided that home schooling is the way forward for you and are in the process of deregistering your child and starting on a whole new educational journey – if this is you, I wish you luck and remind you that Community & Family Learning are here if you need us! Whichever route you are taking, you and your children are facing yet another change and may be feeling a certain degree of anxiety around this.
Those who have decided to continue to home-school, whilst making a huge and potentially scary step that is not to be taken lightly, may find this transition easier than for those returning to school as you
have probably already got into a good routine and should have a good idea of how your days will be structured going forward. You won’t have the issues of social distancing or when to wear masks or the anxiety of being around lots of people again, but you may well encounter other dilemmas. Your child may be concerned that they will be missing out on friendships and school trips, for example.
The important thing to do is to listen to their fears and dilemmas and help them to work through them by themselves. It is tempting, as a parent, to want to jump in and give them the answers but this won’t help them learn to work through these uncomfortable feelings themselves. As much as we don’t want our children to worry about anything, it is important to sit back to some extent and help them come to their own conclusions and find their own way out of situations.
Make sure your child knows that you are there to listen to them. When my children were younger if I asked them outright to talk to me about something that I could tell was worrying them, they were guaranteed to clam up. However, if I sat down with a cuppa and a magazine it seemed to be a green light for them to want to tell me anything and everything. I could’ve been annoyed that they had chosen my chill out time to unburden themselves but instead I looked at it as a positive and a great opportunity for me to help them on their terms. Spend 1 on 1 time with your child and use this last week to include some fun stuff in the daily routine.
Acknowledging their feelings is so important too. Telling them “I can see you are feeling anxious/frustrated/angry about this. How do you think we can solve it?” is far better than saying “oh, don’t worry about it, it’ll all work itself out”. You’re not expected to have all the answers, the idea is for you to facilitate them working out their own plan of action.
Keeping the talk about returning to school positive will also help enormously. They may be itching to get back but overhearing you saying that the way the school are handling the return is concerning you or that you don’t feel they will be safe back at school could put worries in their heads that they hadn’t even considered and create a problem that wasn’t there before. Get organised, try on their uniform, pack their bag and this will help them to get into the right mindset for returning.
Sometimes children can have feelings that they can’t explain or don’t have a name for.
Sometimes children can have feelings that they can’t explain or don’t have a name for. For example, they know they have butterflies in their tummy but can’t put that feeling into words. This is where it is good to help them name those feelings. Find a book that explains emotions. For younger children I love ‘The Colour Monster’ by Anna
Llenas or ‘My body sends a signal’ by Natalia Maguire. Mood cards (available online) can be good too as children can simply pick the card from the pack that has the face on that corresponds most closely to how they are feeling and then you can discuss the feeling this represents. Generally, the cards have information on the reverse to help you have a conversation with your child and often include questions for you to ask if you’re stuck. A ‘Feelings Wheel’ is a good tool to have too. You can find these online by simply typing in ‘feelings wheel’ to Google. They show the 8 main emotions that everything else stems from and can be helpful with older children. Alternatively, give the film ‘Inside Out’ another watch – a lovely reminder of dealing with emotions – this could be a great end of week treat, with a takeaway and the rest of the family, to congratulate yourselves on getting through it all.
If you are still struggling or want to chat with other parents who have concerns about helping their child return to school, sign up to our ‘Returning to School’ workshops on Thursday 4th March. We have a workshop for Return to school for Teens starting at 10am and KS1/KS2 at 3pm, or maybe join one of our other upcoming emotional wellbeing courses. Details of all of these can be found at www.aclessex.com/community-family-learning
In the meantime, we still have a week to get through before school resumes so here are 5 top tips for keeping up both yours and your children’s motivation –
1 – Stay well fuelled. No one can run on an empty tank so make sure you and your family are eating healthily & drinking enough water.
2 – Practice gratitude. You’ve come this far, think about all that you and your children have achieved in this time, all the things you
are grateful for and reflect on how you have changed as a family in positive ways as a result of the past year.
3 – Be kind to yourself. We’ve all been thrust into a huge, unwanted change to our lives. Give yourself a pat on the back and know that it is almost over (as long as we all keep sticking to the guidelines of course!) Celebrate the small wins and give yourself credit for getting through this huge moment in history.
4 – Look toward the Easter holidays. I know they’ve only just gone back to school but now you can make some plans to see extended family and friends for some fun in the (fingers crossed) sun. Picnics outside with up to 6 people/2 families will be allowed (subject to government confirmation) so decide on a suitable spot and get discussing who is bringing the salad/cricket set/cakes!
5 – For the next week, EAT THAT FROG! This doesn’t mean
putting amphibians on the dinner menu but getting the jobs you hate the most out of the way early in the day. Once the schoolwork/ ironing/whatever job it is you usually procrastinate over is done, the rest of the day can be spent doing the things you enjoy more. Give yourself a small reward for getting the boring stuff out of the way and treat yourself to some down time.
In the words of Finding Nemo’s Dory “Just keep swimming” and remember – you’ve got this!