Last August, we posted a blog on how you can support your child going back to school after months of home learning – never did we think that we would be reiterating this advice some 7 months later.
This lockdown has been arguably more stressful for children than last year’s, as they faced a return to home learning in the January of 2021. The youngest pupils have now returned to classrooms across the country, with older children following suit in the coming weeks.
With the situation looking a bit different this time round, the SCIS team offer their advice for ensuring children feel supported as they head back to school again.
A slow & steady return to normal
A recent survey from the Institute of Fiscal Studies revealed that, while 9 in 10 parents are happy to send children back to school, two-thirds are concerned about the amount of lost learning caused by the pandemic.
While this concern is valid, it’s vital that children do not have any undue pressures or expectations placed upon them during a return to formal learning. They will undoubtedly be stressed enough without the added pressure of racing to catch up on any studies they may be behind on.
Adapting to their new routine with kindness and empathy will be key for parents– they may not be enthusiastic about a return initially, but once they settle back into the flow of school time their anxieties will ease and they can get excited about the positive aspects of the return, such as seeing friends and engaging in real-time teaching.
To help children adjust to such a big change, it can be useful to provide them with some coping strategies that they can use when they are feeling stressed.
Acknowledge that it is normal to be anxious about the return to school again, and share a time that you have been worried about going into a new situation. This helps children know that their feelings are valid.
Strategies to manage stress can include breathing techniques, physical activity or simply talking to family or friends. Encourage them to focus on the present and things that they can control, such as handwashing, wearing their mask and packing their bag, rather than needlessly worrying about the future.
The eventual return to normality
While a return to normality is on the horizon, it’s important that you don’t raise children's hopes too soon.
However, it can be helpful to discuss with them what they are looking forward to, such as getting ice cream from their favourite café. Likewise, you could also reflect with them about anything they might have enjoyed about all this time spent at home, like spending more time with pets.
Overall, it’s important that you convey the message to children that you know that this second return to school is a big moment in their lives. Talk to them in a way that resonates with them best – you could strike up a conversation while on a walk or doing an activity like baking to make this easier.
Be careful not to impose yourself on them, but make them aware that you are here for them no matter what. Schools will have strong support systems in place for the return to school too, and will be very prepared to support children’s wellbeing during this time – so know that you are not alone!
Remember that this is a period of transition for everyone – the situation and rules will undoubtedly change, and all you can do is try your best to ensure your child feels as comfortable as possible going forward into the months ahead.