Getting ready for September
I don't know about you, but this wasn't the year I planned. 2020 has certainly been an unusual year and one we will all remember for the same reason. The year Covid-19 changed the way we live.
School’s almost out for the Summer, but for lots of children it has been for some time already and by the time all children are back in school in September (hopefully) they will have been off school for almost 6 months. Understandably for some children and parents, the return to school in September may give rise to a variety of feelings and emotions.
Here are my top tips for helping you and your child:
During the last few months, we have all become used to spending more time than ever with our families. Returning to school may cause your child to feel anxious about being apart from you. If your child is experiencing separation anxiety, you could try a “hug button”. A hug button involves drawing a heart somewhere on you and your child. Explain to your child that if they miss you and need a hug they can press their hug button and send you a hug and vice versa. The hand/wrist is usually a popular place to draw a heart but with extra handwashing in place, you don’t want it washed away during the school day so do take this into account when you get your pens out. “The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst is a great story. It helps explain to children that we remain connected even when we aren’t together.
As much as you can and is possible, try and prepare your child for what to expect when they return to school. This may not be possible til nearer the time, until the school has a clearer picture of what is happening with Covid- 19 and following guidance from the government. They will let you know more when they can. Social distancing is likely to part of the way we live for some time to come, so hugging friends and teachers that they haven’t seen for some time may be hard. Try to talk about other ways they can stay connected to their friends and teachers, such as, air high fives, waves, and of course a friendly smile. “While we can’t hug” by Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar is a lovely story. Extra hand washing and hygiene is likely to be expected. Make hand washing fun by singing a song whilst they do it and show them how to cough or sneeze into their elbow.
Try to make some 1:1 “special time” every day for your child to talk through any worries they have regarding returning to school. They may be aware that you are also returning to work for the 1st time which may involve a commute on public transport. They may be concerned about not only their own safety but yours too. Use this time to address any concerns and reconnect together after your time apart. Validate their feelings and acknowledge that its ok to be feeling a mix of emotions such as feeling scared, worried and anxious as well as feeling happy and excited to be to be seeing their friends and teachers again.
Worrying thoughts can dominate our day. Whilst it’s vital to address these worries, it’s also important to have some time away from them if you can. Try and create some time away from the news and media reports. Play games, have fun. If your child is feeling particularly anxious, some calming breathing and mindfulness can be very calming and fun to do together. Older children may also like to write their feelings down in a journal. Younger children may like to feed their worries to a worry monster. Why not have a go at making your own worry monster at home from an old shoe box or cereal box and involve your child in decorating it. Don’t forget to give your monster a name. “The huge bag of worries” by Virginia Ironside delivers a great message about talking about our worries.
Be as honest as you can about what is happening in the world. Whilst they don’t need to know every little last detail about Covid -19, they are often more aware of what is going on than we as parents realise. They will be picking up snippets of information from friends, some of it not always fully factual, so try and share with them facts in an age appropriate way.
Not only is returning to school after a period of absence hard to adjust to, so can be moving into a new school year. Before they do go back, be sure to discuss with your child who they can go to for support during the day if they feel they need it.
For some children, they may have experienced a loss or bereavement during lockdown. Be sure to share this with your child’s teachers so they are aware and can offer support.
There are lots of great websites with many useful resources in supporting your child, such as
Remember to get help and support for yourself if you’re struggling too. Remember the saying, “You have to put your own oxygen mask on before you are able to help others”
Have a restful summer. I wish you and your child all the best for September.