Sending children back to school can feel like a rollercoaster of emotions, especially at these unprecedented times.
For most parents I’ve spoken to, the feelings they are experiencing are a real mixed bag of uncertainty and anxiety. Following months of being with your children, worries about how the coming months will unfold, how your children will adapt to the changes and a touch of hope that things can return to some sort of normality, it's hardly surprising.
With that in mind, here are 6 tips to help you navigate the return to school.
1. Be prepared - but let go of expectations and assumptions:
Whilst I strongly support the scout motto of being prepared, there’s a need to balance this to ensure you’re not projecting fears, expectations and assumptions on to your child. Be prepared for you and your child to go through a period of adjustment. You might feel anxiety and worry and your child may act out due to the changes, but try and bring a sense of acceptance to those feelings and actions, they are natural and understandable. Acknowledge that these feelings will pass and that many of your worries are expectations and assumptions based on adult experiences, or fears fed to us by the media and those around us.
When expectations or fears creep into your mind, ask yourself, is this real, or a projection of the future? What’s true right now? Bring yourself back to the moment… If it’s not now, it’s not real!
2. Recognise that children are resilient:
Children have been through a lot over the last turbulent months, as have us adults! It’s important to recognise that children are very resilient and adaptable, (because they don’t have as many of the expectations mentioned in point one!) Adults can help children move forwards confidently, by reflecting on lockdown and other challenge situations together. Ask them - What have you learned from your
experience? What have you missed? What have you enjoyed? Why are you proud of their response? And maybe ask yourself these questions too! Help your child to see themselves as resilient and strong as they head back to school.
3. Talk about it: Communication is key. Get both little and big worries out in the open. Have conversations with your child with an open mind, an open heart and open ears. Really listen to what they say and ask questions. Encourage them to think of solutions to what's worrying them. Keep those little chats going about anything and everything. Talk while you’re cooking, playing or just watching TV together. We are our children’s greatest reference point and guide. So be open and talk but also listen just as much, if not more. Show them that you really are there for them.
4. Be a great role model: This is a big one!! Model the behaviour and attitude you want to see. If you want your children to have a positive and optimistic attitude, model it in your language and behaviour. If you want your children to be kind, show them how it’s done. If you want them to disconnect from tech, model it. Talk optimistically about your own goals, dreams and aspirations. At the same time show them that it’s ok to be vulnerable, talk openly and encourage them to do the same. Be the change, because children learn by example not by advice.
5. Nurture compassion & gratitude: Giving back to others makes us feel better about ourselves. Fact! Why? Because kindness & gratitude floods our bodies with feel good hormones. When a child gives back or helps someone, they realise their ability to impact someone’s life and change the world in a small way, and that feels awesome! It's a no brainer! A win win win! Smile & say hello as you pass someone on the street, offer a kind word or help someone together. Set up a gratitude practise as a family. Reflect on your day together, what 3 things are each of you grateful for from this day. Kindness & gratitude also helps foster greater connections, which leads nicely to point 6.
6. Cultivate social connections & build self confidence: One of the biggest adjustments and threats to children’s mental health during lockdown was the lack of play and interaction with peers. The more we can safely encourage social interaction going forward, the better. Another great way to improve children's self-esteem is to give them age-appropriate household chores to do. Why? Because children love to feel competent, grown-up and able to do adult tasks. And the praise that you give them for completing the task also boosts children’s self-esteem and confidence.
These tips will help your child, but also help you and your family navigate the emotional rollercoaster of returning to school, as well as other big life challenges. If you found this blog helpful, Please feel free to share it and tag @thekindfulnesseffect