As we prepare ourselves and the children for a return to school soon (as and when announced by the government), we have some advice below to help the transition back to school to go as smoothly as possible. To be most effective, we really need to begin this a couple of weeks before coming back.
Having consistent bed and wake-up times will help. The National Sleep Foundation suggest starting two weeks before the first day of school to set sleep routine habits. But even a week beforehand will help your child adjust.
The first week back will be difficult, transitioning from being in ‘home mode’ so don’t worry and indeed expect this. Try to maintain healthy habits around sleep (around 9-11 hours for children aged 5-13), exercise (around one hour per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity three times a week) and a healthy diet.
Create structure with a ‘school’ routine during most weekdays if you can. Be guided by your knowledge of what best supports your child during times of change and transition. For some children, a visual calendar will help ‘count down’ and know which days are weekends.
You could set up a practical chart for getting ready. You could include:
Most children have some level of stress or anxiety about school. You can offer support by normalising experiences of worry and nerves. Reassure your child the feelings they have are totally normal and very common, and they will likely overcome them once they have settled in. Worries and courage can exist together.
Depending on your child’s age, you could also try writing a social story about going to school and the routine ahead.
A sense of belonging at school can really affect academic success and well-being. Parents can facilitate positive attitudes about school by setting an encouraging tone when talking about it.
Parents can spot stress if their child (depending on age): is more clingy than usual; appears restless and flighty, or cries; shows an increased desire to avoid activities through negotiations and deal-making; tries to get out of going to school; retreats to thumb sucking, ‘baby’ language, habits they had previously grown out of, or increased attachment to favourite soft toys.
We have all been through a huge ordeal and change to our routines; stress responses are to be expected. However, if these behaviours persist for more than a few weeks, talk to your class teacher about what is happening. Together, we can work on a strategy of support.
Encourage questions children may have about coming back. What will be the same? What will be different? Be open about what we do know and what we do not know yet. Tell your child who they can talk to at school if they have questions. We will all be completing ‘Helping Hand’ when we get back so that everyone has a ‘go to’ person who can help.
Also, let your child know, nothing is off limits to talk about. Have in your head some time set aside to talk informally and with low pressure (usually whilst doing something else, like driving somewhere, cooking together etc.) Most importantly, do not over-do it: too much talk can worry children too.