Welcome to Term 4, 2020. Mia and I hope that you had a refreshing break and look forward to partnering with you and your children to embark on the return to a ‘new normal’. We are sure that there will be mixed feelings in households regarding the return to onsite learning and dedicate this article to equipping everyone with some information and ‘tools’ that may help.
Some ‘Food for Thought’
Food: Anxiety is ‘catchy’. It’s been shown that merely seeing someone acting stressed, even a stranger, can elevate our own levels of cortisol
(Burkman. O (2017), ‘Calm down, anxiety is contagious’, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jan/27/anxiety-is-contagious-oliver-burkeman, Accessed 7/10/2020).
Thought: If we as adults are anxious, either by what we say or how we behave, it is likely that our children will start to be anxious too! Likewise, if children demonstrate that they are anxious, it is likely that we will also begin to feel anxious.
- Be aware that ‘anxiety is catchy’ and ‘tune in’ to what is happening. This can be done by stopping and taking a few deep breaths.
- Once you have noticed it, try and do something about it. If age appropriate, this can include actually naming what is happening in the situation with your children and working with them to come up with some ideas about how to move forward. The attached ‘I Can Plan’ is a more formal concrete way of doing this, but sometimes it can just be a conversation. In the case of younger children, it could mean doing some drawing with them about how they are feeling. In other circumstances and if safe to do so, it might mean removing yourself from the situation for a few minutes to allow everyone’s emotions to settle.
- Realise that your children will ‘feed off you.’ Even if you are feeling overwhelmed, try to be as calm as you can. Just as anxiety is ‘catchy’, so is ‘calmness’!
- Try to use less words. Although communication is extremely important, sometimes as adults we use too many words and delve too deep into things. Be compassionate, acknowledge the emotions that they are feeling (if they tell you), assure them that they will be ok and equip them with concrete information that will help them to move forward. For example, if they are feeling worried about walking into school without you, acknowledge that you have been together for a long time and it will be different to be apart, assure them that it is normal to feel worried, but that the teachers, aides and their friends will be there to help them.
Food: People can be anxious and still do things
Thought: Experiencing worry and anxiety can create the feeling of being ‘stuck’. Putting some strategies in place helps a lot, but won’t necessarily make every feeling go away. That is ok!
- Acknowledge the thoughts and possible physical responses that are occurring.eg. Crying, sore tummy etc.
- Breathe with your child. Deep breathing lowers cortisol levels in the body. Click here for more information. There are many Youtube videos that explore different breathing techniques. Here are just a few:
- Communicate. Encourage your child to talk to you and communicate what they need. Often people know what they need and just need to be asked.
- Do something. Sometimes what children need is reassurance, a cuddle, a small toy to take to school for comfort or a piece of string to remind them that they are always connected to the ones that they love by invisible string. Click here for a link to a reading of ‘The Invisible String’ by Patrice Karst. You might like to look at this over the weekend (and find some wool or string!).
Food: Exercise can lower stress levels. “Exercise relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy and enhances wellbeing by releasing endorphins”
(Robinson.L, Segal. J, Smith.M (2019), ‘The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise’, Helpguide, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm#:~:text=Exercise%20is%20a%20natural%20and,attention%20instead%20of%20zoning%20out. Accessed 11/9/2020).
Thought: Maybe exercising as a family before school could lower any anxiety levels and be a fun thing to do.
- Create a walking routine just before school. Some of you may already walk to school, but for those who travel by car, this can involve walking round the block for 10 minutes before the children get into the car. They could even have their bags in the car ready to go for when you all return from the walk.
- Listen to some music and make up some dance moves. This is very fun and will not only help children to release some nervous energy, but laugh as well!
- Run on the spot.
- Star jumps. If you have a trampoline, allow the children to jump on it just before school (but not too soon after breakfast!)
Food: We have all successfully made the transition from home learning to onsite learning before.
Thought: If we have done it once, we can do it again and it might even be easier this time because we know what is going to happen.
What you can do
- Remind your children that they have done this before and in that way are ‘experts’ at it.
- Try and keep to your normal ‘night before school’ and ‘school morning’ routines. Maybe start practicing them now and over the weekend for fun.
- If your children are excited about coming back to school, be excited with them.
- If your children are worried (See above) for how to respond.
- If your children aren’t really talking too much about it, they may just be ready to come back to school and the best thing you can do is to go about ‘business as usual’. Sometimes as adults we feel that children might need to talk about something, when in essence, they are fine. If we assume that they might be worried and ask them if they are, it can often result in them thinking that they should be worried.
- On the day, say a quick goodbye and tell them that you look forward to seeing them after school. Even if a child is upset, prolonged goodbyes actually prolong them settling. Please know that if staff have any concerns about children, they will be in contact with you.
We hope that the above information will be useful in helping your children to transition back to onsite learning next week. We are so excited that everyone is coming back and can’t wait to see all of the children. Please be assured that the health and wellbeing of all children remains the top priority for all staff at CHPS. Please don’t hesitate to contact classroom teachers, the Wellbeing team or the Principal team if you need support.
Julie Reid – Student Wellbeing Officer, on behalf of the Team