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Returning to school with confidence

For many, next week marks the return to school after an extended period in lockdown at home. As parents we may be feeling grateful for the end of home learning yet anxious about how our children will respond to this transition. Read the below and watch the fantastic and informative video made by Louise Treherne.

What can we do to ensure our children return with confidence?

1. Start talking about & imagining school

Your child might be excited about the imminent return to school, or you might be met with ‘I don’t want to go’. This is normal and should not cause alarm! Your child has just about got used to their current set up – a safe, small bubble in your family home, and how ever much they are desperate to see their friends the idea of now going back to school might feel overwhelming. What they are really saying when they say they don’t want to go is ‘I’m not sure about this’. We can help them work through this feeling by beginning to bring school back into their everyday world. Start talking about and imagining school with them well before the day they return. What’s the thing you’re most looking forward to? Can you remember some of the things you get for lunch? What games might you play in the playground? How many teachers can you name?

2. Connect before the return

For some children it’s the idea of that first interaction after such a long time of nothing that feels scary. Find opportunities to help them reach out and connect before their first day back. This could include writing a postcard to their class or teacher and sending it to the school, or setting up an online call with a friend for a virtual Show & Tell. Finding ways to make that first move before their return will give them confidence and reassurance.

3. Prepare for conversation

The most confident of children might be feeling a little nervous excitement about seeing their friends again. It feels like such a long time since we socialised, we might all be asking ourselves ‘How do I do this again?’. One way of boosting your child’s confidence in this area is to subtly prep them for conversation. This is as simple as, ‘You haven’t seen your friends for a while, what’s one funny story you could plan to tell them from your time at home?’ or ‘Let’s think of one really whizzy question you could have in your head to ask your friends when you see them!’

Child draws on plate

4. Stay connected

For many parents and children, the idea of now being apart after such an intense period of time being together can cause some anxiety. A simple way to reassure your child (and you) is to draw a very small symbol on the inside of your wrist and theirs, in biro. This could be a small heart or a star, or whatever appeals to your child. When your child feels like they are missing you, encourage them to touch their symbol to feel close to you, and tell them you will do the same.

5. Turn ‘what ifs…’ into ‘what is…’

This one is more for us as parents but can also work with your child. There may be elements of uncertainty about your child’s transition back to school which are playing on your mind. What if they are behind academically? What if their class bubble has to self isolate at some point? What if they’re too exhausted by the change in routine? Giving in to these ‘what ifs’ serves little purpose; instead, try to focus on what is certain about the situation and the things you do have control over. When you notice yourself falling into a ‘what if’, pause and recognise a ‘what is’, such as ‘My child is excited about seeing their friends’ or ‘A return to school is the best thing for my child’, ‘My child’s wellbeing is just as important as academic progress’.

Our children will all respond to the transition back to school in different ways, but one thing is for sure; our children are far more resilient than we often give them credit for. They’ve done this before after other lockdowns and time and time again after each long summer holiday. Let’s let go of the what ifs… and help our children return with as much confidence as possible.

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