When I wrote my first ever blog for this page, children had just been pulled out for school/childcare for an unknown amount of time. I wrote about the fear and anxiety they may be feeling but most importantly the loss. Loss of their own normal, loss of time spent with friends and loss of their education, for some of them at a crucial time.
A friend who has 4 children between the age of 8 and 16 described to me the other day how they have been through various stages during these last few months. At first it was a novelty to not have to go to school, then they got bored and missed their friends and then finally this became their new normal, a normal to which they have become accustomed and even started to enjoy. So now these 4 happy, resilient young people are feeling understandably reluctant for school to start. After all they have rebuilt their lives, their routines, and their expectations around NOT being at school.
I think the best advice I can give you now is very similar to the advice I gave you in that very first blog. EMPATHY, EMPATHY, EMPATHY! Whatever your children/young people might be feeling right now, it’s your job to let them know that these feelings are normal, valid, and safe. I remember using the example of a conversation I had at the time with my four-year-old and I’m going to do the same now…
Three weeks ago, when shielding paused we made the difficult decision to send our four-year-old daughter back to a childminder for just three weeks before she starts school. The main reason for this was so that she got used to being away from us in a small and familiar setting before the huge transition into a class of 30 children. When I asked her how she felt about going back, she asked me if it was OK to Be excited AND nervous. I let her know that this was really normal and that I was also feeling both excited and nervous. Once she knew that what she was feeling was OK, she seemed to be able to process it. After one wobbly day she had her happiest three weeks ever!
Here are some other tips to help you make the transition back to school as a smooth as possible for everyone:
- Talk about it lots, find things they are looking forward to and focus on conversations around those things.
- As I said above, our children have gotten very used to having us around in the past few months, this will make the transition especially hard for younger children. If there is a way you can get them used to being away from you again before school within the restraints of government guidelines this will really help. It may be as simple as encouraging some independent play. (Something that doesn’t happen often in my house!)
- Be prepared! The more prepared you are, the calmer you will be and the calmer your children/young people will be. I find that little things like bags, clothes, and lunches ready to go the night before make a huge difference to the way both me and my daughter feel in the morning when trying to get out of the door.
- I appreciate this will be harder with teenagers who have their own minds and ideas but getting into a routine with bedtimes and getting up early will help save battles when the time comes.
- Finally, here is a winning tip from my childminder that will work with any age. Be positive. Be positive even if your heart is breaking and you don’t want them to go. Tell them you are excited for them and drop them off at the door with a smile on your face and a spring in your step! Don’t linger no matter how much you want to scoop them up and take them back home. This really works! (Even if you are a blubbering mess 5 minutes later!)
I wish everyone the best of luck with this transition, remember that there will still be services available to help you or your young people if they are struggling. As parents, remember to look after yourself, talk to people you trust about how you feel because after all you need empathy as much as your children do. If you are lucky enough to get some time to yourself back when school starts use some of it for yourself, whoever that may look. Above all stay strong, stay safe and stay kind.
– Blog written by Terrie