This year preparing your child for school means much more than buying new shoes and labelling uniform. It means preparing them for what would usually be an ordinary event, but in the most extraordinary of circumstances.
And it is not going to be the same experience for every child. For some it is going to be an exciting and long-awaited reunion with classmates they have missed greatly. Some will be ready to get back into a familiar routine. There will be those children who feel fearful and anxious about being with other people again, while others will be dealing with feelings of loss and grief.
If your child is worried or unsure about returning to school, here are some things you can do to help them as the countdown to school begins.
- Reconnect them with good feelings from the past. Share stories with them about great times they have had at school in the past. It’s a good time to go through photographs to stimulate happy memories. They don’t have to be major occasions; any good time will do. Prompt your child to recall how those times felt for them.
- Create feelings of optimism. Encourage your child to think of things they may be looking forward to. Again, these do not have to be big things. An enjoyable activity, seeing a particular friend, or even a favourite school lunch or snack will be fine. The most important thing is to find something they can look forward to. Then spend a few moments talking about it and encouraging your child to explore their positive feelings.
- Give them space to acknowledge their worries. It is not helpful to deny or avoid any difficult feelings your child is experiencing. These are difficult times and we all have moments when we struggle. Sometimes they may need a moment or two to realise how they feel before gently moving onto a more positive outlook. The important thing is to acknowledge the presence of these feedings but without allowing your child to become overwhelmed by them. We have created an animation for teachers detailing an effective way to do this, that can also be used by parents. You can find it here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XKPjxayKDA&t=1s).
Most importantly take the time to both talk and listen to your child. The coming school year is going to be a learning experience for all of us.