So our kids are finally back to school but what was normal before is not any more.
There might not be any clubs and activities, no birthday parties, sport days, school trips or big assemblies.
Bear in mind that most of our kids have been at home during lockdown for a LONG time. We have all been very close together. For some it has been great; we might have found a way to connect better and become stronger as a family, but for others it has been a challenge. But the point is we have all been stuck at home together for a very long time.
Kids adapt very quickly to new situations so they might have already got so used to being at home with us that going back to school is a really big change.
Some kids who had anxiety or emotional instability before the lockdown might feel even more worried now with the uncertainty of the virus. Will there be another lockdown? Are we safe to go out and go to school? Can we go and play at other people’s houses etc. Lots to think (and worry!) about.
So going to school is not ‘just’ that easy and straightforward. They might have real and big anxieties and emotions about this so every morning can become a battle.
So what can we do to support our kids now they are back to school:
- Master your own emotions first:
When our kids suffer we suffer so we might go into overdrive trying to make our kids feel better. So before we do or say anything STOP and take a BREATH. This pause gives you Time To Think; what am I feeling right now? Sad, confused, angry, stressed etc. Accept these feelings, we cannot get rid of them but we don’t want them to hijack what we do or say next. CLICK here to read about ‘How To Master Your Emotions’.
- Plan and prepare together:
Being very clear about what will happen next, and when, will help them to feel safe because life becomes a bit more predictable. Sit down and talk about what it means to ‘go back to school’. It is not the same as before so talk about what has changed, and will change, and what will stay the same. For instance, you will only go to school half a day, there will be less people in the class, you will have to wash your hands a lot, there will be hand sanitiser that you will have to use often, you will have to bring your own lunch and not eat in the canteen etc. But you will have the same teacher, the same friends, the same uniform and so on. You can talk about the morning routine so it runs more smoothly. Let them be part of this so they feel they have a say and can control something in their life i.e. do they need an alarm clock, do they want to leave out their uniform in the evening or find it in the morning etc.
- Listen and listen and listen: I know it can really hurt when our kids are having a hard time or yelling at us. But sometimes listening is the right answer. When they are upset just come from a place of: I listen and I ‘I can hear you are really upset about going to school and I understand that this is how you feel right now and that is OK.’ At this point don’t tell them what to feel or what not to feel instead i.e. ‘But you will be ok – don’t worry about it – you will be fine.’ It is not our job to tell them what to feel or to control their emotions – it is our job to teach them what to do with those emotions.
- Less is more: words can be really dangerous! Once we get started we might not be able to stop and go into a word flow that might end in shaming, blaming or anger. Or we might spend so much energy and words on ‘convincing the child’ that he will be fine, be ok, be happy etc. that it has the opposite effect and makes the child more worried and become sceptical and don’t trust us. CLICK here to read ‘When Love Is Not Enough’, where you can read about how to talk to an anxious
- Trust them to go: Listening and understanding is not the same as agreeing – so we still have to send them to school with an attitude that says, ‘I trust you to go and believe that you can.’ in a matter of fact way that dose not show doubt!
- Give them what they need: try to focus on your child’s needs, not the behaviour, problem or situation. Do they need more preparation, routine and structure? Do they need you to talk less as your words are making them more worried? Do they need a hug or do they need space? Tune into what your child really needs. You can even ask them, ‘What do you need from me or the teacher?’, or ‘What can I do to help you’, or ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’, or ‘If you need anything from me just tell me and I will try my best to help’…..
- Let the teacher know: If you are worried about how your child will cope once they are in school let the teacher know that your child is struggling with going back to school, and keep in open communication with the teaching staff.
Keep calm and safe
Good luck, Mette Theilmann