Given that many children won’t have been in school for six months, going back this September will be a huge transition – for us parents too. Especially for those like my own daughter Jessie, who is starting school for the first time.
So with the return to school planned for 3rd September how can we best prepare for a happy, confident and calm return?
Tip 1: Help children prepare emotionally for going back.
A big transition can bring up mixed feelings – excitement, worry, nerves and happiness – perhaps all at once.
The challenge is that children’s brains aren’t yet developed enough to regulate these emotions – so it’s vital that parents support their children emotionally.
You can do this by acknowledging and validating – saying “I know you’re feeling worried about going back. It makes sense to me that you’d feel that way”.
Tip 2: Talk to your children about their worries
The pandemic has meant a lot of fear, so it’s a good idea to talk to your children before the first day if they have any worries or concerns.
Contrary to popular belief, talking about their worries won’t make them worse; in fact research shows the opposite is true.
By bringing any concerns out into the open, you can help your child process them.
Tip 3: Do a daily check in
Just like us, children’s emotions fluctuate, so it’s important to keep checking in. Find a quiet moment every day to do this, ideally when it’s just the two of you.
Ask them how they are feeling – and if they clam up, you could share how you feel or ask them to score how sad, happy, nervous, or excited they feel on a scale of 0-10.
If they are visual you could ask them what ‘colour’ they feel right now and why they chose that colour.
Tip 4: Prepare yourself emotionally too
For parents and caregivers this has been an unbelievably challenging time. The return to school is likely to bring with it a range of emotions. Particularly if your child experiences separation anxiety.
Children quickly pick up on their caregivers’ emotions (even when we think they won’t notice) so it’s a good idea to process how you are feeling too.
Grab a notepad and jot down how you’re feeling – what words, thoughts and feelings come up as you prepare for the return to school? What’s on your mind? Do you need to chat to a trusted friend about how you’re feeling?
Tip 5: Learn some simple tools to manage your own anxieties
However your child is feeling about returning to school, you might have some anxiety about it. You may be ruminating about their friendships, academic performance, their new teacher or the new policies.
A simple, yet effective tool to shift these anxieties is to write them out, then create two columns – in the first the worries you have control over, and the second those you have no control over. Focus on the ‘can control’ list and take one tiny action to move that concern in a positive direction.
About Zoe Blaskey
Zoe Blaskey is a coach and the founder of Motherkind, a personal development platform for modern parents. She has coached hundreds of parents of all backgrounds on how to navigate the huge challenges of modern parenthood. There is currently a two year waitlist to work with Zoe one on one. As well as raising two young daughters, Zoe hosts The Motherkind Podcast which is the UK’s number one family podcast on iTunes.
Zoe is also the creator of The Family Reset Plan is just £25 – it’s a five part plan grounded in neuroscience and psychology that teaches emotional wellbeing tools to parents and caregivers who want their family life to feel calmer, happier and less stressful – even in these overwhelming and uncertain times. It is available free to NHS workers and families facing hardship.