School After Lockdown: 3 Challenges Your Child Will Need Help With
Takeaway: Most children are now used to the new-normal of lockdown. And this might make returning to school a little stressful. So, to help them adapt, (1) Get them back onto their pre-lockdown routine, (2) Talk to them about their anxieties, and (3) Teach them how to protect themselves from COVID-19.
Children found it hard to adjust to the lockdown, but going back to school brings its own challenges
Is there anything worse for a child than being stuck at home for weeks on end? The lockdown made this potential nightmare a reality, and many children felt the effects. It was stressful losing their old routine and the chance to see their friends face-to-face. It was stressful having no time away from family. And it was stressful being cooped up at home all the time. But with families having now adapted to the new normal, going back to school means your child has to face another wave of changes.
Here are three things you can do to help ease your child back into school life.
They aren’t hard to do and will make a world of difference.
1. Restart her pre-lockdown routine
She’s likely got used to a different schedule while in lockdown. Perhaps she spends more time watching videos and playing games online? Perhaps she’s sleeping later than usual? Whatever the changes, make the first day of school less traumatic by easing her back into her pre-lockdown routine.
- Re-establish her old bedtime. If she’ll need to wake up earlier once school starts, you’ll want to get her used to that again. But it’s healthier to make the change gradual. So, encourage her to sleep half an hour earlier every few days, until she’s back to her old bedtime.
- Restart her old daily schedule. As her sleep cycle regularises, restart her old morning and evening routines. If she didn’t have any, then this is the perfect time to create some. For example, perhaps she can start laying her clothes out the night before? Or get her PE kit or musical instruments ready in advance? You could prepare a nook near the front door where she can leave things that will need to go with her to school. You could also help her start a weekend decluttering routine so that her room is tidied at least once a week. If she’s been spending more time than usual on the internet, then this is the perfect time to start scaling that back.
- Help her get more organised. If she’s old enough, it’s worth getting a family calendar for her to write down her important ‘to-dos’. You can make returning to school a special occasion where she gets to learn new time management and prioritisation skills that make her more independent. Read our article on time management for children.
2. Talk to her about her anxieties.
If she’s enjoying her time at home, it’s possible that going back to school worries her.
Remember, she won’t always tell you when she’s anxious.
So, spend time talking to her and see what comes up. You’ll want to acknowledge what she’s feeling — so she feels heard — and then help her address these issues. If she’s very young, look for cues as she plays. If she’s stressed or upset, she might play fighting games with her toys. You could point this out and ask her to explain the story. If she doesn’t engage, let it go and try again later.
The trick is to keep shifting her focus to the positive.
Try and take her attention away from the what she’ll be losing, to the good things she’ll be getting in exchange. For example, remind her that she’ll be spending time with her friends again. And that she’ll be able to see her favourite teacher.
If she’s still anxious, teach her about the ‘worry box.’
This is a real or imaginary box where she ‘puts’ all her worries. The idea is that she gets to open the box only for a short period of time (called ‘worry time’) every day. Once worry time is over, she goes back to whatever she should be doing and forgets about the box till it’s worry time again.
It’s important to address any anxieties early, though.
The longer they have to dig in, the tougher they are to work through. For really stubborn anxieties, you might want to consult a child psychologist.
3. Teach her how to stay protected from COVID-19.
She’ll need to know COVID-19 basics, like what it is, how it spreads, and how to stay safe.
The challenge is not to overshare
You’ll need to give her the information she needs, but not so much that she feels overwhelmed and scared. What usually works is to take your cues from her. For example, if she’s scared about getting infected, then talk to her about that. But if not, there’s no need to address the issue and plant the thought in her head.
What’s most useful is teaching her actionable, protective habits.
The three big ones are:
- Washing hands: If she doesn’t already, she’ll need to start washing her hands often, and for at least 20 seconds (or the time it takes to sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song twice). It’ll be tough initially and you’ll probably need to keep reminding her. Make it a routine that she washes her hands after coming home, after playing outside or with her pets, after coughing, sneezing, or blowing her nose, and before eating. She’ll also need hand sanitiser for when she’s away from home and can’t get to soap and water. Most importantly, you’ll need to be doing all these things, too. She’s not going to stick with any habit that you aren’t prioritising for yourself.
- Coughing and sneezing into a tissue: She’ll need to make sure she coughs or sneezes into a tissue and immediately throws the tissue into a bin. If she doesn’t have a tissue, she can do a ‘vampire’ cough or sneeze into her elbow. And she’ll need to wash her hands immediately afterwards.
- Social distancing: Getting her to practise social distancing will be hard (and if she’s very young, probably impossible). But she’ll need to know that it’s important to at least try. Show her how far away to stand from people who seem sick (6 feet is ideal), and explain why she should try and stay away from crowds.
Is your child more anxious than usual about going back to school? Feel free to consult with us.
The Ed Psych Practice offers consultation, advice, and problem solving for parents, nurseries, schools, and colleges, in London.
- Phone: +44 (0) 78 3344 7356 / (0) 79 9053 8654
- E-mail: Office@TheEdPsych.com
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