Returning to school (or starting a new school!) can be daunting at the best of times. Throw in a global pandemic where there’s no set playbook for how to deal with it, and we get a whole new set of issues. Let’s start off by straight away saying it’s perfectly normal to feel some level of worry about your child returning to school.
Here’s a couple of thoughts on supporting your child’s wellbeing through these unprecedented times (and just help boost their wellbeing in general..!).
First off: some encouraging news. Evidence suggests that children & teenagers seem to be less susceptible to infection, and less likely to display clinical symptoms than those over 20. So while we still need to be mindful of the risks, and do what we can to reduce them, there’s some comfort in knowing that your child seems to be in the lower category of risk.
It’s become pretty commonplace for hand sanitiser to be pretty much everywhere we go. But it’s also never a bad shout to get into the habit of leaving the house with a face mask and a small bottle of hand sanitiser. By doing this regularly, and making it as much of a part of the daily routine as packing something like a lunch box or school books, it’ll soon become second nature. And you can know they’re heading off for school with the tools to help reduce risk.
Speaking of normalising behaviours…
This is something that we campaign for in general but seems extra relevant right now. Encourage your child to talk honestly & openly with you about how they’re feeling. Help them identify and explain the emotions they’re feeling in a way that’s appropriate & comfortable for them. Then let them know that these feelings are valid and normal to feel.
It’s a two-way street too! If you’re feeling nervous or worried, let your child know. Grown-ups feel these feelings too, and if you’re leading by example, it’s going to normalise expressing emotions. It’s also a sign that you’re tackling this together.
(and remember some children might find it easier to express their feelings via mediums other than talking, such as drawing or writing).
So you’ve shared how you’re both feeling, and validated those feelings. Now what? Find some healthy ways of expressing and processing those emotions! Feeling all worked up and angry? Rip up some magazines and use the ripped up bits to make some art! Feeling sad? Boost the happy chemicals in your brain by hugging it out! Feeling stressed? Do something relaxing – maybe even have a spa day at home! You can find all sorts of ideas of things to try H E R E– and remember that they might already have interests/hobbies/talents that they can use as healthy coping techniques.
It’s important to also point out that some things are going to be more appropriate for different settings than others (e.g. you can’t exactly have a spa day in the middle of school, but you can still do something relaxing like close your eyes and take a few deep breaths no matter where you are!).
And just a final point on healthy ways of dealing with emotions: it’s totally ok to cry. Heck, we encourage it. It’s a natural reaction, and it’s so much better than bottling stuff up.
Making healthy coping techniques a normal thing for your child is going to help them deal with any difficult emotions that come up from school & COVID-19, but also set them up for any future issues they may face.
As a side note with all that talk of spa days above, we’re big fans of hand creams here at HATW. Double-y so now that we’re all washing our hands on the reg. One parent we spoke to said they were worried about their child’s eczema, and how she was going to cope with being in school, washing her hands and using soap all the time. While we’re normalising packing hand sanitiser & face masks, let’s also add in some hand cream to help keep skin moisturised and happy. For eczema in particular ‘Dream Cream’ from Lush is a lot of people’s favourite. It also has a hint of lavender in there too, for a calming scent too! Boom! Relaxation on the go! (other brands & hand creams available).
“Wait a sec. I thought HATW is all about not sweating the small stuff?!” Well. Ordinarily, yes. But in the context of returning to school in a coronavirus world, one of our teacher friends shared this bit of advice. Focus on getting the little things right before worrying about the bigger academic side of things. Getting into good routines and habits (like the ones we’ve mentioned above) is the most important hurdle for right now. Schools have been working and preparing for months for the academic side of returning to school – including the possibility of future lockdowns. So focus your energy on complimenting this with the things that are in your control (in a world full of things that are out of your control). We’ve got a lil video about the things you can control. Watch it below!
This is a favourite quote that came out of a podcast from our good friends at The Heavy Mental Podcast. Kids are a lot more receptive than we maybe give them credit for. Explain things in child-friendly terms, that they can understand and process. Things like why there are new or certain rules in place and why they have to follow them. Kids deserve honesty (and can smell dishonesty a mile away..!).
Finally, and perhaps most importantly in general: listen to what your child has to say. Really listen to them. Ask questions, to find out more so that you’ll a) prove that you’re paying attention to what they’re saying but also b) build a better relationship with them. Make some time to sit down with them after school each day, just to download with them on what’s gone on in both your days and how it made you feel. This is also a great time to chat over a cuppa. And any excuse for a brew sounds good to us.
These are just a few ideas of things that might help. But everyone’s different. Everyone’s dealing with their own emotions around the situation we’re in. You’ve got to find the approach and things that work for you. The good news is, we’re all in this together, so just to wrap up with something of a HATW catchphrase: you are not alone.
This post on Returning to School in a Covid World was originally written for Explore Learning – a maths & English tuition platform for children aged 4-14. Check out @explorelearning_official on Instagram!
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