The end of the summer break, and heading back to school this year, will look a bit different with the added concerns about COVID19.
However, a few simple steps can help make the transition from the beach to school a little bit smoother. From a mother and a teacher, my biggest learning is don’t be too hard on yourself or your child for the first few weeks back – it’s all about a gentle transition.
Communicate and Advocate
Be sure to meet your child’s teacher and don’t hesitate to share your insights about your child – you are an expert. This could be their special interests, strengths, struggles. Every child has the right to be seen, heard, and included at school – the more the teacher understands your child and their background and culture, the more they can meet their individual needs.
If you have concerns – voice them. Teachers can also offer advice on home struggles that might be impacting your child at school – they are a wealth of knowledge so don’t be afraid to reach out.
Listen to your child’s apprehension about school. You can repeat back to them what they are telling you, so that they feel heard and dig deeper to find out exactly what it is they are apprehensive about – maybe it’s the goodbye, maybe it’s masks, maybe they are overwhelmed. Perhaps there is something you and the teacher can do, and if not, you don’t have to offer solutions – just being heard will help.
Making kids rush often seems to have the opposite effect, right?! With the late summer nights, and morning sleep-ins, this can be one of the most challenging parts of the new school year – getting to school and work on time. Drop-offs and goodbyes can be harder and longer – making it even more stressful trying to get to work.
Have a conversation with your employer about the change in routine – perhaps there is flexi-time available? I like to apply for a day’s leave for the first week back. I use this extra time across the first week of school to allow for the transition and for more relaxed drop-offs. This may not be possible for all families, and if not, rest assured, the routines will come back.
Goodbye with Confidence
As a teacher, I have seen every kind of goodbye and drop-off in young children. A school psychologist once gave me the following advice for children who are new to a school or struggling with goodbyes. The parent can offer the child one activity to do together in class or on the playground, for example, “I will stay for 5 minutes while you start playing with these blocks, then I have to go, and I will see you at 3 o’clock.”
When the time is up, kiss them goodbye with confidence and go. Smile when you leave and don’t hesitate, even if it is upsetting for you too. Clear communication about how the good-bye is going to look, and a reminder that you will be back, gives certainty to children, and over a few days they quickly settle into the new routine.
After last year’s lockdowns I for one am excited for the new school year to begin. With children’s vaccinations and such a beautiful sunny summer break, we have all the ingredients for a great start to the school year.
For more support and resources for teachers and whānau, sign up to our Save the Children Education Hub newsletter here.