After being away from the physical classroom for such a long length of time, it is inevitable that a lot of our kids and teens will be facing heightened states of Anxiety. The thought of returning to the classroom post lockdown will be a welcome thought for some, but for others, will be filled with dread and worry.
Our children have not been socialising as normal with many only talking to friends and peers online and some only during school sessions. Most have been leading a more sedentary lifestyle without the usual sporting activities and have been staying at home more often and as such have only been wearing masks for short bouts of time. Returning to the classroom (some will need to wear masks all day) and its active, sensory overloading environment is bound to cause some stress for many.
Below are some strategies that will help you all to prepare for the return to the classroom.
1. If your child has not had any contact with their peers during the holidays or lockdown period, then help them to do this now. Encourage some messaging whilst playing Minecraft or other games as they can use the game as an ice breaker and not worry about making conversation. If you can, then move on from here and organise a play date at the local park. Imagine how hard it will be for them to go back to school if they have not had any personal contact with any of their friends/peers.
2. Slowly bring the bedtime hour back. If you have been letting your kids stay up later over the holidays and lockdown period, then bring their bedtime back slowly. Start about 5 days before the return of school and just bring their bedtime back by 15-20 minutes earlier each night and their waking time by the same amount of time each morning until they are back to their normal school time sleep schedule.
3. If your child does not have a bedtime routine, then start one. Kids thrive and suffer a lot less stress and anxiety when they can predict what is going to happen next. Develop a routine or routines for different nights of the week and then stick to it/them. A visual schedule is particularly helpful for our younger or more anxious children.
4. Reduce screen time especially at night. It is probable to assume that restrictions around screen time have been relaxed. Studies suggest that screen time be restricted to 1-2 hours before bedtime as the light emissions from electronic devices can suppress the release of the hormone melatonin, which is important for regulating our sleep-wake cycle. Something to consider when constructing your bedtime routine.
5. Get the school bag packed and uniform washed and ready to go a couple of days in advance. It is not improbable that your child has grown an inch or two in the last few months. Add in the change of season and you might find that their uniform needs to be altered or new uniforms need to be purchased.
6. If your child has a study area or desk, make sure this is clean, tidy, and ready to go also. (Bonus if you can get them to clean their rooms!) Have the school lunch and snack ingredients on hand and ready to go. Watching you rush around and listening to you stress the day before will not ensure a calm transition to school for anyone.
7. If your child or teen is stressed about returning to school, try Emergency Essence from Australian Bush Flower Essences. This essence is 100% natural and can be taken alongside any other medication. It is excellent for any emotional upset and has a calming effect during a crisis. Have your child start taking this 2-3 days before school starts. I can make this up here for you or you can purchase from any good Health Food Shop.
8. If your child needs to wear a mask for the duration of the school day, it might be a good idea to get them used to wearing a mask now, at home, and outside, for longer periods of time.
Using the above strategies along with open communication with your child and their teacher/school regarding any concerns will help to ensure a smooth transition and a return to the “new normal”.
© copyright. May not be reproduced without acknowledgement to the author. Written by Kim Norton 30th September 2021.