Usually it feels as if the summer holidays have only just begun when you start being endlessly bombarded with ‘Back to school’ marketing urging you to buy new school paraphernalia – stationery, school shoes, lunchboxes, water bottles etc. But this year, with schools closed and the majority of children at home since March, things may well feel a little different.
You, and your child, may be feeling a little daunted about going back to school in September and navigating the new normal. We have three girls between us going to primary school this year and for two of them, it will be their very first time! Both Fi and I mixed feelings about sending them back. Apprehension, emotion and relief! We will miss our girls so much and we will worry if they are doing ok without us, their constant companions for the last six months. But we also know that for everyone’s wellbeing, it is time for them to go back to what will likely be a new normal.
Like so many mums, we have worked all the way through lockdown and the guilt at juggling all our commitments has been difficult. So we have put together six helpful tips to help the whole family manage this transition, after such an unprecedented long period off school.
Many of us have let our routines slide in recent months – with less pressure on time and no urgency to stick to a daily regime, this is understandable. But, in the last days leading up to the first day of term, now is the time to start making sure your child goes to bed at a reasonable ‘school night’ time – gradually adjusting to an earlier bedtime will mean you have less of a battle at 7am on the first day of school. Providing a little structure to your days will also help, try having break time and lunchtime at the same time as the school timetable.
Your children respond to your cues. You might all be feeling anxious about going back to school and adjusting to the new routine. Ask open questions about how they feel about going back to school. Depending on their age, and how much they understand about the virus, try asking how your child feels about mixing with other children again. Do they have any questions about going back to school? Which friends are they looking forward to seeing again? Are they thinking about anything else about going back to school?
Whatever your school’s policy around social distancing and year bubbles, take time to explain and talk about how things might be a bit different – more hand washing will definitely feature, year groups may be segregated into bubbles, the water fountains may be closed so you need to make sure you have enough water for the whole school day, you may have to adhere to staggered drop off, pick up and break times. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t vocalise any concerns, they may just not feel like talking about it, and you may be simply projecting your own anxieties onto them. But talking openly and explaining how school will be different will help your child to feel prepared.
Make sure your child is getting enough exercise each day, particularly spending time outside in green, natural surroundings whenever possible – this has been shown to increase overall wellbeing. Exercise will help boost moods and enable your child to fall asleep more easily, vital right now, especially if your child is anxious about going back to school.
Contributing to family life by carrying out everyday tasks such as help to make their bed, chop vegetables for a meal, washing up, folding washing etc. is a really important part of developing your child’s practical life skills and boosting their independence and self esteem. Why not try asking your child to help plan a family dinner using our fun recipe cards?
Involve your child in organising their new school uniform, sorting out a pencil case, new lunchbox, and planning what food they would like for lunch and snacks. This will help reinforce the familiarity of the new routine coming up and gradually help get everyone in the mindset of going back to school. Both Erin and Fi are sending their girls to primary school this year and they agree it has been both a little stressful and emotional getting new school uniforms!
If your child is worried, take time to listen to their concerns. If they feel overwhelmed by the prospect of going back to school, then talking these concerns through, making sure they are eating good quality food, spending time together and getting plenty of fresh air will help provide your child to be as healthy as possible and know they are in a safe, secure home environment. And remind your child that if they are worried when they are at school, they can talk to a teacher – the school’s job is to ensure the safety of everyone, and they are there to help.
How are you and your family feeling about going back to school? We’d love to hear from you, get in touch!