It’s been a weird time for all of us. And soon for many children, it’s time to return from ‘home schooling’ to ‘schooling at school’ again. It’s another transition and most of us are at least a little unsettled by changes of this kind and we all benefit from - as a minimum – acknowledgement of potentially tricky adjustments. (It will also mean changes for those children who have remained at school throughout lockdown as the other children return and school life returns to its full hustle and bustle version!)
So how would I support children with this transition? Here are a few ideas.
Explore the reactions
You could use the pictured reaction sheet to explore how your child feels about different aspects of returning to school and this could prompt further discussion. If you would like a copy in a word document (for free of course) - just contact me through this website.
A letter to yourself
Ask your child to imagine writing a supportive letter from lockdown to their future self: the version of themselves that will have just returned to school. They could speculate and write about: what it will be like to get up and get to school compared to their mornings now, how they might be feeling, what they are enjoying and what they are not enjoying, anything they think they might be struggling with, which friends they are really pleased to see, how they are spending their playtimes, and the advice, comfort, sympathy and encouragement they will want to give their future selves.
What was lockdown like?
Ask your child’s teacher to invite children to bring in a picture, poster or piece of prose that shows or describes some of their key experiences of lockdown. Some children could write about how they survived lockdown or even compose the 'dos and 'don'ts' of lockdown. Those who are happy to, could share this with their class.
Feelings agreement spectrum
You could get your child to demonstrate how they feel about different statements relating to returning to school by standing in the position that represents how they feel on a spectrum from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’. Statements could include:
- I can’t wait to see my friends
- I will enjoy being surrounded by lots of children again.
- I will miss home
- I think I will find it hard to concentrate in lessons.
- I think I will find the day long
- There are lessons I am looking forward to more than others
- It will be nice to see my teacher again
- I will miss lunch at home
Present your child with a sheet of feelings and ask them to circle those they are experiencing when they consider their return to school. You could use a sheet like the one in the post: The emotions of returning to normal. This can be used to prompt further discussion about what might be specifically triggering each emotion.
Acknowledge the feelings of lockdown.
You could explore these statements people made about lockdown to prompt discussion about how lockdown felt.
“I found I felt everything more intensely in lockdown – both positive and negative emotions.”
"I often didn't feel like doing very much in lockdown."
“I didn’t sleep well in lockdown – probably because I was generally a little bit more anxious than usual.”
“I found myself getting irritated with my family more than I usually do.”
“I really missed my friends and felt sad about not seeing them.”
"In lockdown things that would normally have seemed like a small issue, became magnified.”
“I really missed having big days out. I felt happy when I remembered things we had done in the past but this also could make me feel sad.”
“I was often really bored in lockdown.”
"I liked the calmness of lockdown."
It might be a time for children to revisit the idea of who they turn to when they need help and how important (and clever) it is to ask for help when you need it. This can be done by:
- Identifying five people (adults and children) who your child thinks would be the best to ask for help from when they need it e.g. friends, parents, neighbours, grandparents, club leaders, MSAs etc.
- List those people on a poster or in a picture to remind you that they are there.
- Identify times when a person might need help e.g. they were being bullied, something was really worrying them, they didn’t know how to do something they needed to do, they were really upset about something that happened etc.
- Discuss who they might go to for help if they found themselves in each of the situations.
Explore change – and what can be difficult about it and what can help.
Here are some ideas…
- Start by listing a few changes – big ones and small ones. E.g. trying a new breakfast cereal, new shoes, new baby sibling, moving house, moving towns etc. Attempt to put the changes in order from 'small' to 'big'. Use this to discuss what makes a change big and what makes it small e.g. how much actually changes, how much time you are aware of the change each day, how much emotion it triggers etc. Decide how ‘big’ the change of returning to school is.
- Look online and find sayings about change and discuss the lesson each one might be giving us. For example:
A smooth sea never made a skilful mariner. - Anonymous
If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it. - Mary Engelbreit
Our only security is our ability to change. - John Lilly
Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights. - Pauline R. Kezer
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. - Author unknown
Change always comes bearing gifts. - Price Pritchett
Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. - Joshua J. Marine
If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies. Anonymous
- Discuss what we fear about change – mostly the unknown and worrying that we might not be able to cope with these unknowns, liking what we know we are comfortable with or used to. etc
- Discuss what helps with change – knowing home and other things in your life will still be the same, knowing that we nearly always get used to changes after a short while, trying to develop a mindset of excitement about change by looking at all the positives, knowing everyone is probably feeling the same, knowing there are always people you can ask for help, discussing what you are finding difficult with someone you know will listen etc
Best bits – about lockdown, about school
Make two ‘best bits’ lists - one dedicated to school, and the other one to lockdown life. Try and make both lists as long as possible, even if they end up including some silly things!.
Turn over a new leaf
Explore the idea of returning to school as an opportunity of ‘turning over a new leaf’. What might you like to try harder with or get better at and what will help you do this? e.g. getting told off less, remembering to take what i need to school, trying extra hard focus on what the teacher is saying, exercising more at break time, making a healthier packed lunch, joining a club etc