Let’s face it, the return to school this academic year will be like no other. Earlier this year, our children experienced lockdown; being unexpectedly ‘cooped up’ with close family and siblings and suddenly shifted from school to home-school. Some children will have thrived during the experience, but others may not have. The lack of social play, interaction and, for a time, access to the great outdoors, were challenging features of lockdown life. However, as families, we quickly adapted and found new habits and routines that made lockdown more bearable (and even enjoyable, in some cases).
Before we think about getting ready for the new school term, it is important to encourage a degree of retrospection; by looking back and reflecting on how far we have come over the past months. Help your children recognise their own resilience. Think about how to draw out the positives with your children about lockdown: Which habits and activities did we enjoy? What did we realise we missed and truly valued? What did we learn about ourselves that surprised us?
There is little doubt that academic progress may have been affected by the experience of missing school, the variable quality of remote learning provision and the inevitable ‘summer slide,’ but the good news is children now have a chance to do some catching up.
Parents are adept at making sure their children are ready in a practical sense for the start of term, but we also need to ensure that children are ready emotionally and fired up to do their best academically. Parents can help by setting high (but realistic) expectations. These can take the form of little family mottoes or mantras such as: “We go to school to learn and to work hard”, “We always try our best”. Parents can best support children by creating a positive home learning environment (one that cultivates curiosity, values reading and discussion, homework, and working in alignment with teachers).
When talking to your children about the start of term, listen to any fears or worries and co-create solutions for these, chat about potential changes but equally emphasise all the things that will be familiar and remain unchanged (perhaps they will take the same bus, see the same friend every day).
If you are feeling anxious as the parent or carer, try and keep those anxieties firmly under wraps; stay as positive as you can and show your child that transition can be tricky, but also a time of great excitement.
During those first few days of school, stay calm, cool and organised. Don’t let your child see you sobbing at the school gate (anxiety-inducing), avoid bombarding them with too many questions at the end of the day and make sure they are in a great sleep routine. A great night’s sleep will mean they have a much better chance of coping with all the challenges and opportunities that come their way.
Dr Kathy Weston is one of the national experts on parental engagement. A motivational speaker and researcher, she delivers talks to parents in schools all over the UK. Read more about her work here or follow her on Facebook.
RS Assessment have teamed up with The Happy Newspaper to share a selection of positive resources that can be used with children at home or in the classroom. The free resources include how to create a gratitude wall and strategies to cope with anxiety. Find out more and download our free resources here.
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, Dr Kathy Weston