It is back to school time, with our kids (we only have two in school now!!) going back on Monday 31st January. There is certainly a different feeling for back to school this year with the COVID pandemic still ongoing. We are not just thinking about making sure the kids have new school shoes and all their stationery but also masks and rapid antigen tests!
Hopefully, these additional items will only be needed for a short time but while they are needed it is a good idea to give some consideration to how you are going to manage them. I cannot offer tips on testing the kids with rapid antigen tests twice a week as I am not sure how it is going to work in our house yet until we hear more from out school. But I do have some tips on organising the masks for the kids as they head back to school and helping kids with their emotions.
Organising the face masks for back to school
Most families I know now have a sizeable collection of fabric facemasks. Keeping track of them and if they are clean can be tricky without a system. You can do something as simple as having two reusable shopping bags, one marked clean hanging in a commonplace in the house like the towel cupboard where you store all the clean fabric face masks and then have a bag placed near the washing basket or in the laundry somewhere so the kids can put their dirty masks in.
If you have primary school-aged kids heading back to school these face mask zip cases for the school bag could work well so kids have a place to put their masks when they are not wearing them (eg on the way to school) and to keep a spare mask if they need it.
Some clever crafty people are also making these kids’ face mask lanyards to help keep track of masks when back at school.
Helping kids with their emotions about going back to school
I am not a child behaviour specialist or a psychologist but I have curated some excellent information from experts who have practical tips and advice for helping kids go back to school in this current COVID environment. The first source is from the Australian Psychological Society and they have a comprehensive free download Helping children transition back to school in the COVID-19 era. The stand out section for me was this one below:
Reassure your child that it is safe to go to school
Many parents had conversations with their children about the importance of learning from home to keep them healthy and safe. Some children may now worry about the safety of returning to school.
To help your child feel safe, have a conversation with them explaining that:
- the decision to return to school is based on medical advice
- children do not usually get sick from COVID-19
- everyone at school is working hard to make sure that children are safe
- anyone who is unwell will stay at home
- the government is keeping an eye on things – if it starts to be unsafe, decisions about what to do will be made
- reassure your child that it is normal to have mixed emotions such as excitement, relief, worry and anger
- discuss what they are looking forward to and what they are worrying about
- reinforce good hygiene practices.
After school, it will be important to:
- talk to your child about their day, including what they enjoyed, what they felt worried about and what they are looking forward to tomorrow
- schedule extra family time as your child is likely to have missed being at home with you
- your child may feel more fatigued and will benefit from quiet activities to recharge.
Source: Helping children transition back to school in the COVID-19 era by the Australian Psychological Society
Coping with uncertain times
Chris Cheers Psychology shares wonderful content on Instagram. When schools finally went back after our long lockdown last year, Chris teamed up with Dr Renee Cachia who specialises in child, adolescent and parent mental health to share tips to help get kids through these uncertain times. The post is still super helpful and you can find it here to read all of the points or scroll through the embedded image above. I felt these points were the most applicable for heading back to school at this stage of the COVID pandemic:
2. It is only natural for parents and carers to try to jump in and solve children’s problems. Often though, kids don’t need us to fix anything. They need us to listen.
Try sitting with them in their discomfort. Say “This is hard. I feel worried too. But know that we are going to get through it together.” Not only does this take the pressure off you to solve things out of your control, but it will teach children that uncomfortable emotions are a normal part of life.”
4. Right now, kids are surrounded by phenomenal uncertainty. Doing what you can to provide structure and predictability in daily routine will make your children feel safe and reduce stress. However keep in mind that as life is different right now, it’s OK if the boundaries look different too.
Although it might not immediately seem like it, routine and structure provides the foundation that allows spontaneity and play.
Although we have all been impacted differently, everyone in your family has been impacted by the pandemic. This is something you are going through together. So try and take the opportunity to show your kids how you validate and process your own emotions, and encourage them to do the same.
Remember, these are unprecedented times, so unprecedented emotions are normal.
It’s not about getting you kids to feel better, it’s about getting your kids better at feeling.
Traditional back to school tips
Amongst all the COVID related back to school issues we still have the traditional back to school preparation to work through as well. Here are some of the most popular back to school posts on the blog that can help you get yourself and the kids ready for back to school:
- 11 steps for a calm back to school – a calm back to school doesn’t happen without some solid work behind the scenes. In this post I take you step by step through some simple plans and tips that we use to make sure our return to school mornings are not only calm but also a positive start to our day.
- My new school shoes feel weird and other back to school sagas! – Back to school time and the new school new shoes that go with it, can cause issues for little ones. Here are some tips on how to handle some common back to school issues like school shoes feeling weird, scratchy t-shirts and I don’t like my class.
- Managing the transition from summer holidays to back to school – for parents! – The end of the summer school holidays can be a challenging time for parents as well as kids. These are some strategies I use to help make this time of transition as smooth as possible for me, including managing my expectations.
- 7 tips for new school mums – Along with the new school year for 2019, comes a batch of new school mums. I think that the first year of school for your first child, is just as big of a learning experience for mum as it is for the child! These are my tips for new school mums to help them get organised around school life.
- Getting ready for year 7 – Some simple tips and ideas on how to approach getting your child ready for the transition from primary to school to secondary school.
What have you done so far to get ready for back to school in 2022?
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