If the experiences of Covid have taught our children anything it is to be resilient and adaptable. They have been through so much and missed out on so many things, having made it to the otherside AGAIN. Many students have been, and will be, returning to school over the next few weeks, but the classroom environment will be very different on their return.
There are bound to be many mixed emotions on the return to school. There will be excitement to see friends, worries and concerns about new protocols of masks, or even fear of returning and struggling to get back into a ‘regular’ school routine (oodies are not part of the uniform). For parents too, it's only natural that they will experience mixed emotions. Will their kids be safe? Have they fallen behind? And of course they will be grateful that their kids are returning to school and their home-teacher hat can be hung up! (Champagne corks pop)
Victorian students have been incredible over the past two years, and to think that in two school years we have had only one uninterrupted term. Their resilience has been incredible. They have just got on with the job at hand. They have gained skills that many adults are still struggling with (“You're on mute”) while missing out on so many school experiences, big and small, like Preps running their first assembly.
There is so much hope, and many things to begin to look forward to, as we transition back to school. When preparing your child's return to school consider the following actions to help make the transition as easy as possible:
1. Talk to your children about how they are feeling
Some students might feel worried, some students might be bounding out of bed and some might be dragging the doona to school. It is important to tune in and listen to how they are feeling and be mindful of not trying to place pressure or imply your own worries or concerns onto them. Creating opportunities for them to be able to talk freely about their concerns and feel listened to will help them to feel more relaxed on their return. Focus on actively listening and discussing rather than asking a series of questions. Maybe try starting a conversation while on a walk or in the car to school to help them feel more comfortable.
If they are feeling anxious or worried it is important for them to understand that it is completely normal and likely to be also how some of their peers might also be feeling. Be aware of any pre-existing issues from before covid, such as friendship or social anxieties, that may be on their mind so that you can help work on strategies with them to alleviate their concerns when they return.
2. Discuss new protocols
There will be new protocols in place with the return to school, which might include different timetables and lunch breaks. Help kids to be aware of these new protocols and to understand that they are in place to keep them safe. Also encourage them to raise any concerns with teachers and staff that they are comfortable talking to.
If your child will now be required to wear a mask, make sure that they are physically comfortable to wear the one chosen for a long period. Some elastics can be tight, so finding a mask type that is comfortable for long periods will be important.
3. Support in organisation
In transition for these next few weeks there will need to be a level of support with organisation, tech equipment at home, tech equipment at school, days on, days off. Luckily it is only for a few more weeks. Try to encourage older students to manage their own equipment and organisational skills.
4. Tech free time
Encouraging kids to reduce the amount of time gaming and accessing devices when not at school or online learning will help to support their mental health and wellbeing. Prior to Covid there was plenty of research about the impact of screens and cognitive development. The Australian Government guidelines recommends
no screen time for children younger than two years
no more than hour a day for children 2-5 years
no more than two hours of sedentary recreational screen time per day for children and teens.
This is not inclusive of school work completed on a screen. However, given that students have been basically on a screen for the majority of the past 18 months, encouraging non-screen time play will support their wellbeing development. I know when I return to my classroom I will be avoiding learning experiences that require technology for now. For further information about tech and mental health stay tuned for future blog posts!
5. Dealing with the end of day emotions
With all the changes to the school experience and after a lengthy period without social interaction kids will need to regulate their emotions, which could lead to emotional outbursts and end-of-the-day tiredness. This may come out in the form of frustration, tears or the need for space when they return home. It will be important to allow for some down time for them to let-off steam and unwind after a busy day. Encourage outdoor play and physical activities to help regulate emotions.
6. Sleep and rest
Children may have settled in different sleep patterns and unusual school hours with remote learning. Kids should now be returning to bed times that allow sufficient sleep time and ample time to get ready and travel to school on time. Try reducing screen time just before bedtime. Rest and a good night sleep will help kids to cope with the new routine and adapt to changes. If your child is struggling to sleep you might like to introduce a meditation before bed to help assist with the relaxation response.
It is exciting and hopeful that we are finally returning to what we love to do, teaching kids and supporting their growth and development in person! I can’t wait!