Around this time of year, every year, us parents start planning for back to school.
It’s pretty much the same every August – working out what items of uniform the children have grown out of, getting feet measured for new school shoes, booking spaces in after-school clubs and breakfast club and so on.
This year though, everything is a bit different. A lot still feels very uncertain.
All this change and uncertainty can be hard to deal with and can leave both us parents and our children feeling quite anxious about the new school year.
So here are some suggestions for things you can do to help you and your children prepare for going back to school after these long months at home during lockdown.
Some of this advice is for helping children prepare for going back to school after lockdown, and some of it is aimed at getting us parents ready.
Seeing as the children are the ones who will actually be heading back to school, I’ll start with the advice for helping them.
Make time to talk and read together
It’s likely that your children will be feeling all sorts of mixed emotions about going back to school after such a long break. So make sure you take time to talk through any and all feelings with them.
Reading books together can be a great way to spark conversations about how they might be feeling, so make reading with your children part of your evening routine if it’s not already.
If your child is feeling nervous and worried in general about going back to school, then ‘The Worrysaurus‘ is a great, gentle story to read together and get you talking about their feelings.
For children who are worried about how much things are changing then ‘The Koala who could‘ looks like a brilliant way to bring up the idea that change and doing new things can have really positive outcomes.
Young children who are nervous about how things will be at school when they go back might enjoy reading ‘When I start school‘, even if they’re not actually starting school for the very first time. The book addresses different worries a child has about starting school, and is a great way to start a conversation with your child about the specific things they’re worried about with regards to heading back to school so you can then reassure them.
Start building good habits
There’s still a bit of time left to start getting into, or back into, good habits to prepare everyone for school starting again.
If your evening routine has relaxed during lockdown and the school holidays and bedtime has shifted later and later, then now is a good time to start trying to shift it back.
It’s also a good idea to keep practising thorough hand-washing routines and reminding your children about things like coughing and sneezing into their elbows and avoiding touching their faces as much as possible.
Walk them through the new normal
The school day will probably look quite different than it did last year, so take time to walk your children through the new routine.
If the school have sent any videos or photos showing how things will look then sit down and look at them together and talk about what is different from the way it was before.
Make sure your child knows where they’ll be going in the morning, and if you’ll be able to go to their classroom with them or if you’ll have to say goodbye at the gate. Talk to them about the fact that you most likely won’t be able to hang around in the mornings, that you’ll have to give them a big hug goodbye and then leave.
Have a think about anything that will be different from before and make sure your child is confident about what they need to do and how things will work.
Working through these things with the children will help us parents prepare for them going back to school too, but there are also a few other things we need to think about.
Get everything organised ahead of time
Get as much information as you can from your child’s school and make sure you have everything they’ll need bought, labelled and ready before they head back to school.
You might need to buy extra sets of school uniform if, like our school, your children have been asked to wear a clean set of clothes each day.
If they need to have packed lunches for a while you’ll need to make sure you have lunch boxes, water bottles, and food containers and get them all clearly labelled too.
Make sure you’re clear on where you need to be to drop them off and pick them up, if this will be different from the normal routine. And make sure you check what time drop offs and pick ups will be, because they’ll probably be staggered to avoid crowds at the gates.
Be open to all possibilities
At the moment schools here in the UK are planning to open to all children for the new school year.
The thing is there’s always a possibility that things can change. If there are spikes in coronavirus cases then there’s a chance we could end up with the children back at home again for a while.
It’s an incredibly stressful time for everyone but staying open to, and putting things in place to prepare for, the possibility of more home school can help make things just that little bit easier.
Things like talking to employers about continuing to work from home, if that’s an option, are a good place to start. You might also want to keep a work space for the children set up at home and make sure you have supplies of paper, printer ink, pencils and so on ready to go at any time.
Take care of your own mental health and wellbeing
This is such a stressful time for all of us, so as you and your children gear up for a new school year and a new routine, make sure you take time to look after your mental health and wellbeing.
I know it’s easier said than done at the moment, but try to find a bit of time where you can for a bit of self-care. Head out for a little walk on your own. Run a hot bath and shut yourself in the bathroom for half an hour. Try practising mindfulness or meditation for a few minutes before bed each night.
If you can take care of your wellbeing then you’ll be in a stronger position to provide support for your children if they’re finding things hard too.
Hopefully these bits of advice will help you and your children feel more prepared for the new school year, whatever that might look like this year.
How are you feeling about the children going back to school?