Throughout our remote learning time, my family have developed a new rhythm of being in our house. This involves getting up slightly later (because we don’t have to travel anywhere!), sometimes staying in pyjamas (because we don’t have to be anywhere), eating at different times of the day (to account for the different ‘breaks’ that each of us have), eating different food (because we have constant access to a kitchen) and having more screen time, because sometimes we all just need to ‘chill’. I’m sure that we all have adapted in different ways to balance the many complexities that we have been faced with. The question is, how are we going to adapt to going back to school?
The answer is, slowly, but we need to start now! From my perspective, there are 3 key areas that will need addressing: establishing new or revisiting old school routines, fostering healthy sleep patterns and, for some children, helping them to physically and emotionally separate from loved ones.
Note : I know that the below information may be overwhelming, but truly believe that some ‘hard yards’ now, will result in a smoother transition for the children.
The reality is that all of us (whether we like them or not) respond well to routines. They give us structure and predictability. These two things by their very nature reduce anxiety and boy, do we need reduced anxiety levels right now!
Routines need to be established. I cannot expect that my children, after sleeping in for the past five weeks are miraculously going to spring out of bed, get dressed, eat breakfast, clean their teeth and pack their bags for school on May 26th/June 9th. They need practice!
Although every household’s routine will look different, I strongly encourage you to sit down with your children and come up with one.
Please see the bottom of this article for suggested formats (There are many different designs, I have just included two basic ones). Depending on the age of the children, using graphics can help a lot. Taking photos of your children doing these activities and putting them in a routine chart can also be quite powerful. Some families may choose to put stickers on the chart when each task is done.
To help with the transition, initially try and make practising the routine fun. For example, instead of putting on their school uniform, the children may simply need to change out of their pyjamas into everyday clothes that include a certain colour, like red. Another day they might have to get dressed and wear accessories like gloves, a hat, or a beanie.
The week before, make sure that the children practise what they will actually need to do, including getting into their school uniform and being in it for the day, packing their lunch etc.
At the end of the ‘home learning’ day, you could have them change out of their uniform to signify the end of the day. You could also include an afternoon tea time and/reading time to highlight what they might do when they arrive home from school.
Talking about going back to school is important.
- Allow time for your children to express how they are feeling about returning to school
- Ask them what they are looking forward to
- Ask them what they will miss about being at home.
To help with this process, I have included a ‘Back to School’ template activity that you might like to do with each child to help them to process the changes that are coming up.
We all know that the better night’s sleep that we have, the better we feel, think and behave. This is the same for children who, if they are anything like mine, seem to have PhDs in procrastination, being hungry, needing a drink, wanting the light on/off, wanting ‘just 5 more minutes of reading/hand holding’ etc.
As we all transition back to a school routine, getting a good night’s sleep will be really important. Please click on the below link to gain insight on things that you and your children can work on to achieve a good night’s sleep.
Before we move on to the last topic
As adults, we can tend to assume what may or may not be a ‘big deal’ for our children. We can then unknowingly project our own fears and worries for them, onto them.
I continually need to remind myself that until a few weeks ago, going to school was normal. It is home and remote learning that has not been normal!
We now have a chance to return to a ‘new normal ‘and many children will cope very well with this.
We need to be positive, but we also need to be prepared. The below information has been put together to help you to do just that.
Physical and emotional separation
Having been at home for so long and surrounded by family, some children may find it difficult to do such things as: get out of the car, say goodbye and ultimately leave your care. This may occur at the time of school drop off, or start as worries the night or days before school is scheduled to start.
Coming out of such a unique time, this is totally understandable and there are some important things that you can do to help your child. NOTE: the below suggestions are likely to be difficult for you to implement, but it is so important that you do. We need you to be strong and consistent no matter how many heart strings your child/children may pull!
This term there will be different routines for dropping off and picking up students from school. Please make sure you read the school newsletter and Compass so that you are aware of what arrangements are in place and can prepare your child for what will happen.
Things to do BEFORE school starts:
- Implement a routine, including a sleep routine
- If you get a chance, walk past the school with your child/children and start talking with them about how good it will be to get back to school and how great the staff are at looking after them.
- Explain the new pick up and drop off rules (as per Compass and CHPS newsletter) to your child/children
- Come up with a ‘goodbye’ ritual. This could include: special words that you might say like; “have a great day”, “I love you”, “I will see you later” etc. It may also be followed by a special gesture like a thumbs up etc.
- Practise the ‘drop off’ in your driveway multiple times before school starts. You may even want to drive near the school to have a practice.
Things to do at drop off when school has resumed:
- Despite possible emotional outbursts and protests, STAY CALM
- Implement the ‘goodbye ritual’ that you have been practising
- If your child is distressed, alert staff members at the drop off or if necessary, ring the office from the car
- Repeat your ‘goodbye’ phrases, emphasising that they will be ok and you will see them later
- Do not enter into a big conversation. They will not comprehend it in an emotional state
- Do not become angry and try not to cry (you can do