The reopening of schools is imminent and after over 13 weeks in lockdown with your children, it is an exciting prospect sending them off and having the house to yourself. However, most parents and their children may not feel completely excited; apprehension due to changes and, of course, the spread of the virus is on our minds.
We wanted to share a few tips with parents in Lytham St Annes, in order to help ease children back into school life without imposing the shock of everything not returning to ‘normal’.
Talk and prepare them:
- It is so important to talk to your child about what to expect when returning to school. Although this has felt like an early summer holiday, relaxing in the back garden, and playing football in the park; it is important that they understand the everything will be slightly different and that they will not return to a fresh start.
- Listen to them and answer any questions they may have about returning to school. They may be just as worried as you are, and unsure as to whether they will be able to enjoy the social aspect of school as much as they did. You may want to share your worries in order to allow them to open up to you.
- Help them understand why they may be returning without one of their siblings, or why a few of their friends may not be there. There may be health concerns with other children that your child may not understand. Inform them as best you can, without causing anxious feelings, about the seriousness of the coronavirus.
- Teach them how to follow handwashing procedures and social distancing guidelines. Upon returning to school, they will notice a huge difference in procedures and how they move around schools: one-way systems, handwashing between classes, no sharing of tools and books, etc. They must understand why it is so important to follow these rules, and how to do it correctly.
After the school day:
- When you collect your child from school encourage them to talk about their day and listen to how the school has reacted to health and safety changes. Talk it through and help them understand why certain procedures have been put in place, even if they do seem silly.
- Empathise with how they feel and show them you care. If they return home feeling anxious or upset, it is important to not brush off how they feel; let them know you understand.
- If you feel that they need to speak to a specialist or need some guidance, contact the school, and see if they have a counsellor who can talk everything through with your child in a professional manner.
If they are not returning:
- Some children may not be able to return to school for a while due to a health issue that could be worsened by COVID-19, or family circumstances. If your child falls under that category it is important that you help them understand why they cannot return with their friends. Answer any questions and empathise with them if they feel disappointed.
- Praise them for following the guidelines, this will help them through the continued lockdown for them and push them to work harder from home.
- Encourage them to keep in contact with friends. Thanks to the wonders of Facetime and WhatsApp etc., we can speak to friends via video call, voice message and text. Talking to friends when they’ve finished school will keep them socially adjusted and will ease them in when eventually returning to school.
Help them cope with feelings:
- Use calming strategies such as breathing techniques. There are apps that can help such as ‘Smiling Mind’ or ‘Breathing Bubbles’.
- Encourage your child to face their anxiety rather than using avoidance techniques that may come naturally with anxious feelings (such as not making eye contact, not talking through how they feel, not wanting to attend school). Help guide them by helping them understand how important it is to share how they feel and stand up for themselves.
- Teach them to write their feelings down. Whether they write a diary or a blog, or just little scribbles on post-it notes; it is important to get their feelings out in the open if they find it difficult to talk – some people feel it is hard to find the words in conversation and realise what they wanted to say some time later.
- A technique used in a lot of schools is a worry chart. This is a chart with different ‘emoji’ faces or a scale of 1-10, that helps children express how they feel by pointing at the face they relate most to in a circumstance.
- Find an object that can be used when trying to express feelings;
this works especially well with younger children. Find an object you can hold in your hand like a wand or a toy – anything, but it helps if it’s colourful or sparkly. Then whenever you want to encourage your child to talk about their feelings you pass them the object and they will talk, and when you want to talk, you hold the object – make it a game. This could also work with a space in the house whether it is a step on the stairs or even better, make a den! Use it as a safe space and they will become increasingly more comfortable talking about their feelings.