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returning to school after covd19

Transitioning back to school and a “new normal”

As many kids in Australia and around the world begin the transition back to school and to a “new normal”, it does come with some mixed emotions for many. There are certainly those that can’t wait to ship the kids back to their teachers and many kids that are desperate to see their friends, get back to their sports and resume pre-covid activities. And then there are those that have become very used to the security and relative comfort of the family home, loving the slower pace, the limited car trips to activities, the weekends free of commitments and the hours of family bonding. There are those kids that have enjoyed working at their own pace, free from the need to be ‘socially switched on’ all the time and the emotional energy that a normal school day can consume. And then there are those oscillating between all of the above. On one hand being able to see the value of their time spend in isolation, whilst also craving a return to whatever our new normal looks like.

Whatever your situation and however you are feeling, this time of change and transition may require some adjustments to mindset and expectations both for ourselves as parents, and for our kids too, as they head back after such a lengthy break.

Practically speaking

  • Clean out the school bag early! There is nothing like the stench of a 2 month old banana to take the gloss off the first day back at school
  • Try and get back to morning routines and sleeping patterns before day 1 so you can get the mind and body ready to go
  • Communicate with your kids that there will be some different rules, routines and procedures at school, but the teachers will be helping them with these and ensuring everyone is aware of any changes

Supporting the anxious child

For those kids that have been enjoying the security of learning from home, the thought of returning to school after such a long time can be a very daunting.

Aside from telling you, some signs they may be feeling anxious are…..

  • Moody, withdrawn, easily frustrated
  • getting upset over small things
  • sleep issues
  • loss of appetite
  • feeling sick, stomach aches etc
  • getting parents to do things they could usually do for themselves

Things you can do to help……

  • Listen and validate: sometimes just acknowledging their concerns is enough. You can validate their feelings without feeling you have to give them all the answers. 
  • Remember you set the emotional tone of the household. Talk in a positive way about the teachers and the school, and show your child you have faith in how things will play out. It doesn’t mean we have to constantly tell them everything will be perfect and wonderful, but we can be conscious of how we talk about it and try to maintain that positive spin.
  • Help them try and flip their concerns. For example, encourage them to move from “What if I go to school and nobody wants to talk to me” to “What if you go to school and people are happy to see you”. Let’s look at other ways we can talk to ourselves. Asking other questions such as “What’s the worst that can happen if ….?” and “How have I dealt with this before” can help reframe their concerns.
  • Remember a little anxiety is normal and to be expected.

Helping kids wean from the screens

It is no surprise that our children’s screen use has jumped significantly during the times of home isolation. Aside from children learning from home, which is done primarily via a device of some sort, the technology also took over many other elements of our kids lives. Some of the everyday experiences that were taken away from kids were replaced by their use of screens. When real life connection, play dates and hanging with friends was no longer an option, the online games, social networks and chat sites provided a platform for kids to stay in touch with friends and family. Those social connections are crucial for young people and thus the screens were able to fill that void. With all that extra downtime, but no sports practise, game days or extra curricula activities, many kids also turned to the screens for their entertainment. Gaming, YouTube and Netflix may well have played a bigger role. Our strict boundaries around screentime may well have gone out the window as we also struggled to manage our own work whilst still keeping young people occupied. 

So now we have to send them back to school and I know many parents are worried about how their kids will go if they try and take back some of those screentime hours and what sorts of battles may lay ahead. Here are a few things to think about….

  • You don’t need to shut everything down cold turkey. Weaning of the screens may mean making gradual reductions in times with the technology so our kids can get used to re introducing many of the other elements into their day. 
  • Have the conversation with your kids about why the extra time on screens was ok during ISO times, but why we many now need to make changes to adapt again to the different times.
  • Don’t always refer to the screens as the “bad guy” and your need to control them is just to ruin their fun. Rather, remind your child that they are just one way we learn, are informed, connect, socialise and are entertained. We need a whole range of experiences and activities to be sure our needs are being met and thus must ensure we are making time for those. 
  • Be confident that they will more than likely be so excited to go back to seeing friends, participating in sport, hanging with people in real life, that the screens will naturally begin to wean. Of course they are not going to want to forget about them altogether. They will still play a role, but encouraging their many other activities will also mean the time with technology will naturally be reduced

Reflecting back and Looking Forward

Use this time to have conversations with your kids that allow you to relect on the experience of being in isolation and what that can mean for your all looking forward. Some conversation starters…

  • What are some of the habits, rituals or routines you picked up that would be good to keep?
  • What are those experiences that may not serve you so well in the future?
  • What were some of the things you enjoyed about this time? Are there ways you can implement changes to your life so these positive experiences can still play a role?
  • What sorts of things was the technology able to replace? What voids was it able to fill?
  • What were the things technology was not able to replace? What are the experiences that a screen just cant replicate when it comes to human connection, playing outside, training for sports, hanging with mates etc

I think if we reflect on those things that worked and those things we are ready to ditch, we can use this period of transition as a positive time to reflect. We can also then look to the future in ways that leave us feeling resilient for all those things we have overcome, and grateful for all those things we have to look forward to.

And don’t forget if you’d like more help Raising a Great Kid in the Digital World, then you will want to get your hands on a copy of my brand new book. Find out more here.

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