August 27, 2020

Emotional Readiness for the Return to School

After such an extended break and unusual few months, how can we help our children feel confident and emotionally prepared for the transition back to school?

Here are 5 ideas to put into place before your child starts back at school:

1. Help your child see the positives

Negative bias means that we all naturally focus on the ‘bad stuff’. If your child is feeling negative about being behind with their learning over lockdown or is worried they have forgotten how to be at school, help them see all the positive things they have achieved during the last few months too. Maybe they’ve learnt to ride their bike or got really good at sharing or conflict resolution! They may also be focusing on the ‘negatives’ about the return to school, so help them list out the bits they are excited about too such as seeing friends, regaining a bit more independence and doing their favourite subjects again.

2. Prepare your child for what might be different (and the same)

Help your child know what to expect in terms of differences in their school setting. The classrooms might look different, groups might be smaller and drop off/pick up procedures might have changed. Check information from your child’s school on this on their website and in newsletters as they may have shared helpful details or videos on what to expect. Also take the time to acknowledge that there will also be many things that haven’t changed. Your friends will be there, your teachers, you’ll still have play time and be learning just like you were before.

3. Explain the language you use

We’ve all become familiar with the term ‘bubble’ but does your child really understand what this means? Hearing words such as this and ‘social distancing’ might sound confusing or scary to your child. Take the time to explain that a ‘bubble’ is simply the group you will be in which will be like a team that always sticks together. It’s important we leave space between and an easy way to think about this is stretching out your arms like an aeroplane!

4. Start thinking about school

Help the transition be a gradual one where you start thinking and talking about school before the first day back. Doing the school journey with your child before their first day is a simple way of helping them get back into that headspace. It also allows for any big feelings to come up before they do it for real. Get their school uniform and school bag out a few days before, try the uniform on, get their pencil case ready and even spend time looking the school website or a previous school photo.

5. Find small ways to give your child control

Uncertainty and lack of control in a situation can often be the drivers behind anxiety. Find small ways of giving your child an element of control. This might involve asking them to choose what they would like in their lunch box, or choosing how to wear their hair or even letting them choose what to do after school on their return from their first day.

Using the ideas above in the run up to the start back at school can help your child and family feel more emotionally prepared. Remember all children will respond differently to this transition and some may need longer to settle than others. The first few weeks and months will no doubt be tiring and possibly overwhelming in places as your child begins to rebuild their stamina and socialise in ways they haven’t done for the past few months.

A great book to read with your child to help with the transition from home to school.

Louise’s recent Instagram Live on this topic can be found here.