After around seven weeks in lockdown for most kids, the harsh reality is that school is opening up again. Making the transition may be tricky.
All kids are different and you will know your child better than anyone. But returning to school after a lockdown due to a global pandemic is a lot different to returning to school after school holidays and you may be surprised by your child’s reaction, whether it be emotional or physical.
Children feel safer in a structured environment. Whilst some kids will take changes in their stride, others need plenty of support and time to adapt. If your family routine has slipped during the lockdown, work your way back to a more structured day. A good morning routine, healthy breakfast, packed lunch, time for homework and chores, plenty of family time and down time, and a set bedtime, all go a long way to getting things back to “normal”.
Just because we are out of lockdown it doesn’t mean that we have to abandon all of the good stuff that families have enjoyed over the last couple of months. If you’ve shared baking afternoons, family games nights, or weekly video conferences with grandparents, keep those things going.
Before they head back to school talk to your child about the changes that they may see (physical distancing, masks worn on public transport, etc) so that they are not overwhelmed. Explain to them that these measures are purely to continue to keep us safe and keep up the great work that our nation has done in working to eliminate the virus.
Think about how your own day will be changed due to work commitments and discuss how this will impact your child, ie pick up from school, the time you are home, etc.
Be ready for school
No one, and I mean NO ONE, wants that first day back at school to be the day that you can’t find their school shoes, or they miss the bus, or the car won’t start! Before the first day, run through this checklist:
- Find their uniform (including shoes and socks) and make sure it’s clean and ready to wear
- Hunt out the lunch boxes and shop for (or make) some of their favourite lunch box fillers
- For college kids, figure out the correct timetable and required books
- Charge up and update devices
- Ensure you have quick and healthy breakfasts available
- Check up on school and public transport options and timetables and ensure that bus and train passes have credit on them
- If your car has been sat around for most of the lockdown, give it a bit of a run out and make sure that everything is working fine
Don’t be too enthusiastic!
We love our children. But we also need some personal space and time to think (and breathe!). Try not to be too over enthusiastic about the kids heading back to school – show some genuine sadness when sending kids back to school and welcome them back at the end of the day with open arms.
Try not to project your anxieties
This is not an easy one. Parents across the country will be feeling apprehension about sending their children out after lockdown. Even though we know it’s safe, there’s always that nagging thought! Try not to express any huge worries with your child around,
Open communication with your child is something that should always be present in a loving and healthy family environment. Be open to talking with your child about any of their concerns. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand their fears, or anxiety. Do not dismiss their emotions. Positively validate their feelings and help them to find strategies to work through the issues.
For instance, if they say they are scared of returning to school because of the virus, don’t respond with, “So am I!” A positive response would be, “I understand that you are feeling scared, but schools are now safe because of the awesome work our country has done fighting the virus.” You could ask them if they would feel braver if you accompanied them to the classroom or if they had a friend to go to school with.
If they feel overwhelmed whilst at school, remind them that they can always talk to their teacher.
You could teach them the Magic Minute from Sparklers for mindfulness.
Some kids may be keen to get back to school while others prefer online learning. Try not to focus on the negatives. Ask your child what they are looking forward to about returning to school (seeing friends, favourite subjects, etc). If there is an activity or routine that they or the family have started in lockdown that they enjoy, see if you can work it into their day going forward.
Also remind kids that they shouldn’t always believe what they hear from their friends or in the playground about the virus or the restrictions. Be prepared for some random questions!
Something to look forward to
Having something to look forward to can help kids deal with some changes. If there’s a fun activity coming up, a family celebration, or just a family movie night at home on a Friday, scheduling in something that they will enjoy really does help.
Don’t over schedule
Remember those first few days after summer holidays when your kid was like a walking zombie after school? Be prepared to allow for some nap time (even for the teens!) while their body clocks and minds adjust.
It can be tempting to jump back in to the wide world with gusto but try to keep the schedule under control for a few weeks while things settle down.
If your child is sick, keep them at home
Any runny nose, sore throat, or fever needs to be referred to your doctor for testing. The likelihood of your child contracting COVID-19 is small but we must all work together to keep it that way. If your child is sick, notify the school, keep them at home, and contact your health professional.
Written by Julie Scanlon
Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire.
Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”