There might be many concerns at this time as Schools reopen after the holidays. They will certainly be different places to inhabit due to Covid19. The uncertainty of what the new normal will be like may increase anxiety for some, and bring excitement about seeing friends again for others.
Every child and family will be different, and so it’s really important to maybe start to attend to any anxieties and have some important conversations about how we are all doing.
Here is what you can do, that might help….
1) Don’t assume silence means everything is OK. It might be worth creating space for conversations about hopes and fears about returning to school. It’s so important to explore how you feel so that you don’t pass on your anxieties to children. Remember, every ones’ thresholds for risk will be different. However you also need to respect your child’s need to not talk if they do not want to.
2) Less is more when it comes to helping. So listen without interrupting, make sure you have understood the concerns, by repeating back and check you got it right. Don’t invalidate with ‘don’t be silly’ or ‘you just have to stay strong’. When you have really listened and accepted how someone feels then you can reassure that you will be there to help them through. Then we can explore what might help if they want to. Sometimes listening is enough.
3) You can also normalise that during uncertainty it’s normal to have some anxieties that we have to work through.
4) If there is thinking that it’s going to be awful you can ask your child to tell you more. Sometimes when we verbalise fears they lose some of their potency. I believe if we can dip our toe in the water, and leave anytime, we are more likely to try it and see that it’s actually not as bad as we thought. Information can help with feeling safe, so if this is required speak to school if possible to find out what the new procedures are if you have not had them already.
5) Breaking down what is too big can make it more manageable and creative solutions are sometimes possible.
6) Some children may have back to school blues, just like you might get after a holiday. We can acknowledge that not all of life is fun, and it’s hard to have to do things we don’t always want to do.
7) Some kids will be able to push through with a message from you that we can manage this together. Others might need extra support if there are underlying issues.
8) Try not to personalise any behaviour that’s problematic. Get curious with open questions. Could you tell me a bit more about what is going on for you? How can I help?
9) Use your own stories too about how you found something tough but got through it.
10) Invite your child to join you in calming activities such as slowing down breathing in the difficult moments. Asking how is your heart rate? Do we need to breathe and take a minute. Focusing on what is going on in the body.
11) Remember it’s not always Covid. When going back to school separation anxiety can happen for all number of reasons. For your child to return to school they need to know you will be OK without them.
12) It’s normal to feel some loss, as your home empties and children return to school. It is also normal to feel relief if you have got your home to yourself again.
13) Try not to compare your family to how other families are doing, this is not helpful. Remind yourself you are doing your best at what is a challenging time.
14) Do talk to school if you are experiencing problems to see how you can work together to support a child that may be struggling to return to school.
Going back to school might be a process for some that takes time rather than a one day event and that’s OK. Ensure you celebrate and bravery efforts as you go.
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