Helping your child settle back to school post lockdown
Finally, confirmation has arrived: schools will return to face-to-face teaching on March 8th. While many parents will be breathing a big sigh of relief at this news, some parents and children may be starting to worry about certain challenges that might face this return to school.
One school in Putney has pre-empted these feelings of anxiety and is introducing the Zones of Regulation programme which was created by an occupational therapist used to help children and young people regulate their emotions and needs. Using the zones of regulation helps children to identify emotions, what they look like, and then use tools to help manage situations. There are four different zones: Blue, Green, Yellow and Red. One of the great benefits of the Zones of Regulation is that it gives children a way of talking about their emotions – something as adults we know can be hard!
Below, we address some anxieties children might be facing.
1) Being afraid to put their hand up and ask questions.
With eight weeks of virtual learning, where children have had the safety of turning off their camera or whereby learning tasks have been set and completed independently, there are bound to be children concerned about the return to school and anxious feelings about face-to-face learning. The thought of putting their hands up in class to ask or answer questions may fill them with dread and this is where the transition from home-learning to school needs to be tackled. Teachers will be ready for this and understand what a change it will be for the children; they will be taking it easy on them!
2) Picking up where they left off with reading scheme books, and the possibility that their reading ability has dropped during lockdown.
Teachers will be sensitive to the fact that whilst some children’s reading may have advanced, many families will have struggled to have the time or find the resources to keep reading up to the same level as when they were at school. It is highly likely that schools will re-assess each child’s reading level and put them at the level which is right for them at this time.
3) Handwriting regression due to lack of practice.
I have definitely noticed this with my own child. When I look back at his handwriting from 6 months ago, I am quite shocked to see it has got worse over time, not better. This is likely to be a common problem but once they are back into the routine of school life with increased writing, you should see handwriting improving again. There are some great resources out there to help with handwriting, such as CGP books. The Magic Link Handwriting Programme is also a fantastic programme which improves handwriting.
4) Having to relearn things that they forgot during lockdown, especially in maths.
Teachers are going to be busy assessing children’s maths abilities as well as discovering which children have been taught different methods for calculations by their parents! One school in Ealing has suggested that they may need to stream year groups for English and maths which they have not done previously. This would allow greater support for the differing needs.
5) Lacking confidence with attempting new things
Give your children time to adjust to life back at school before signing them up to any new clubs or activities which they might feel nervous about. It is hard when you feel like they have missed out on extra-curricular activities for so long now, but it might be better for them to settle back into the usual school routine before embarking on new activities!
6) Difficulty solving problems without a parent’s help
Many children have been used to having constant parent support throughout their lessons, but we have to remember that many have had very little support due to parents needing to work at the same time. Teachers will be on the lookout for children who are finding it difficult to work by themselves and will provide them with strategies to help gain independence over time.
7) Finding it difficult to return to the rules of the classroom
As parents as well as teachers, we have noticed our own children battling against our instructions. I am sure my son will dislike having to wear school uniform again and I worry about whether he will be able to sit at a desk for an extended length of time without asking for a snack! However, children are incredibly resilient and are able to adapt to differing situations far better than adults. There will be a short time of adjustment for them all and, no doubt they will come home utterly exhausted for the first week or so. You will be amazed how quickly your children will slot back into the school routine though!
8) Possibly having been taught incorrect methodology (e.g. phonics, maths) by parents who aren’t up to date with how they are taught at school
Teachers will spot this and, if the taught methodology does not work, it won’t be long before teachers have shown them the correct or up-to-date one. It’s important to remain in constant contact with your child’s teacher especially in the next few months to ensure you’re keeping that communication open. This way, parents and teachers will be on the same page and can help children through this transitional stage.
9) Being upset when they make mistakes
You may find that returning to school opens up more emotions as your child adapts to their school life again. Like we have done over the past year, it is vital that we remain calm and supportive to help our children feel safe in their changing environments. Don’t worry if they get upset when they make mistakes but continue to give positive encouragement and praise. There are some fabulous books out there to help children with their emotions. We recommend “Ruby’s Worry” by Tom Percival as a great book to start the conversation with your child.
10) Feeling under pressure to catch up
While some children may have had parent support throughout, the majority would not have had this. There will be many children who have only had sporadic home-schooling and sadly the pandemic will have caused the gap in learning to widen between peers. Teachers and headteachers will be quick to identify those children that need extra guidance and support. Speak to your teacher at parents’ evening or via email to ask what the school will be doing to catch up any children that need extra support. This process will take time and it is vital to keep children’s mental health at the forefront of any discussions and decisions.
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