Posted on: Tuesday 7th September 2021

What to expect when returning to school?

We’ve have been through one of the most challenging time in our lives and I’ve got to say it has been a real emotional roller-coaster. The amount of change we’ve had to adapt to and abide by has been quite overwhelming. As adults we have really felt it can you imagine the impact it would have had on our children’s minds and bodies. 
They’ve had to adjust to not being in school which when you think about it, they spend so much of there time being a part of. It’s a place that plays a huge role in their development not just academically, but also emotionally and socially.
When we experience change it can raise so many feelings within us all. Some of us may be creatures of habit and love the certainty and consistency of our daily routines and others might love the excitement of the unknown. Either way, it stirs us so much emotion and so many thoughts of what to expect. It’s important to note that you may see a change in your child knowing that they have to go back to school as again this another change, they now have to navigate. The good thing is we have done this before and managed to navigate through prior lockdowns and have a good set of insight and skills to manage this next return.
We need to be mindful that children with social and emotional needs and those with special and educational needs will find this a little whole process more heightening and more difficult than others.

How do we manage the unknown?

Not knowing and living in a void of uncertainty can trigger a lot of worry, stress and anxiety in not only ourselves but also our children. It’s really important to fill those gaps if you can by finding out more about how the school day will look, what to expect such as making sure we social distance and if you child goes to secondary school wearing masks all day in school.
Many schools have learned, from the ever-changing ways they’ve had to adopt to, and have good structures and procedures that they can now communicate with the school community to help ease any anxieties.
If you haven’t got the answers to your questions reach out and see if you can find them. There will be some things you might not get the answer to but filling in some of these gaps will help ease of lot of worry and stress.
What we need to be mindful of is that our children have an experience of managing a safe return after the previous lockdown. They still have that memory to help them paint a picture in their minds of what to expect. Depending on what that experience was like will influence their emotional and behavioural responses.
Normalising is always a powerful thing to use when we feel overwhelmed by emotion. By making our children feel so normal to have the feelings they have in the face of having to return to school and manage another change. Sharing the nervousness, we have and how we feel it in our own bodies can be so helpful. At times I think we try to not feel and which is absolutely impossible as the feeling is so normal and natural. It’s about helping our children learn how to manage them and not escalate the intensity of the feeling by thinking we are abnormal to feel such a way.

How can parents prepare children for going back to school?

Talking about expectations is so important to help children create that visual image in their minds of what it will be like when they return. It also helps to answer any of the questions they may have but also give you an idea of the level of emotions, anxiety and worry they might be feeling. This will help you know what you might need to put in place to help them manage it.

It’s so important to help them get back into some routine as this will help in preparing them to manage the changes ahead. You might find you have to be a bit more assertive and have firmer boundaries than before which undoubtedly they will feel and try to challenge.  
It will also take a couple of weeks for it to fall back into place however we will have some tired children on our hands as it is emotionally and psychologically draining to readjust to different ways of being.  They will also be quite overstimulated as now they are experiencing being a part of a bigger system and will see all of their friends that they’ve missed through this whole period. It will definitely be a time of sensory overload which is important to be mindful of especially if your child has special educational needs.
Help them find ways to relax and unwind when they finish school and celebrate their achievements for example wow you’ve managed to do a whole day or week at school well done! They might also miss being at home with everyone as everyone might have been working from home so scheduling family time in will be so therapeutic, along will knowing your child might need a little boost of oxytocin when they see you. So, plenty of cuddles and kisses.
You will also need that too as sending our children back to school will raise a lot within us as parents, so be kind and gentle with yourself and reach out if you need anything. If we are better regulated then we can be in a much better position to regulate our children.