By Emily Hanlon
It feels like it took forever for kids to become accustom to online learning from home. And now, just ask they are starting to sink comfortably into this routine, we are talking about transitioning them back to the classroom. This is a lot of change for us adults to wrap our heads around, let alone young kids!
While many kids seem excited about returning to school and seeing their friends, a lot of children are nervous about the prospect of yet another change to their already inconsistent routines this year. Children crave structure and predictability, which is pretty much the total opposite of what the year 2020 has offered them so far. I wanted to share with you some general tips for helping make the return to school a little more successful. Please keep in mind that every child is totally different and may be experiencing a different set of challenges, but these are some strategies that may be adaptable to your specific situation.
- I think it is really important not to bring up the return to school until you have solid details, as there is so much confusion going on already, that we don’t want to add to it! Once you know the details, it is important to bring it up as a super exciting thing and start the conversations early. This will give your child some time to process the information. Again, discuss the positives, empathise with the worries.
- That being said, it is really important to figure out what it is that they are worried about exactly. Are the worried about separating from you, are they worried about a bully at school, or have they just gotten too comfortable being at home? Each of these worries are totally different and therefore, our approaches would be totally different! So make sure you have all the information before you try to help them resolve the problem(s).
- It is really important to validate their feelings about returning to school. This is SO important. As parents/caregivers, it is your instinct to try and take worry away from your child, but this isn’t always helpful as it doesn’t give them an opportunity to work through the feeling. What I mean by this is, if your child says something like ‘I am worried that if I go back to school, I will get the virus and have to go to hospital and be all alone.’ Don’t say something like ‘don’t worry, that would never happen!’ This makes them feel like their feelings are not valid or reasonable and that they are over reacting. Instead, try something like ‘It sounds like you’re really worried about corona virus and getting sick. I am really sorry you feel that way. It is a really scary time, isn’t it?’ By relaying their words back to them, you are showing them that you are actively listening to what they are saying, and you are keeping the conversation open for them to continue expressing their feelings. By the end of the conversation, they may have even come up with a resolution to their problem/worry without your input.
- Think about the way you initially prepare your children for the start of the school year. You organise their supplies, pack a lunchbox, maybe you even do something really fun the day before school returns! Try to keep this same routine so that the return has some sense of normality.
- Talk to your child’s school about your concerns regarding the transition. Perhaps they are able to offer you a stepping-stone plan. For example, a school I work closely with has encouraged children who are struggling with the changes, the opportunity to initially come in for 20 minutes a week and exchange library books. This gives the child an opportunity to get onto school grounds with absolutely no academic pressure, and leave again, therefore allowing them a chance to work through those initial worries about returning to the premises without any added pressure.
- Try to organise a Zoom meeting with the school/teachers and organise a transition plan. You can come to the meeting prepared with your ideas and then hopefully your school can work with you on the best ways to implement these ideas. Never go to a meeting without a list of your own ideas or points you want to make. There is literally no point, because your only real option is to then take on board the ideas of others.
I would love to hear ways you have been preparing your child for the return to school! Drop me an email if you would like to contribute your own ideas to this post!