Five top tips for supporting your child as they return to school after lockdown
As our children return to school after a long break, it’s a chance to reset our routine and introduce some positive changes to family life.
Whilst many children are happily returning to their classroom after lockdown and the summer holidays, others may find the prospect quite daunting. Parents, too, may feel anxious and unsure about what will happen. However, this is also the time for a new start, to adopt new habits and embrace all the positive opportunities of a new school year.
Dawn Willoughby, the Instructor from the Kumon Henley-on-Thames and Bracknell Study Centres, and Angela Buckley, fellow author and experienced teacher, have recently written and published a handy guide called Back to School After Lockdown: How to prepare your child. They have kindly agreed to share their tops tips with us and hope that their experience and guide will help parents to support their children as they settle back into the classroom.
Restoring the routines you had at home before lockdown will help to reassure your children that life is returning to normal and it will also lessen the uncertainty surrounding the start of the new school term. Whatever your current situation and previous habits, start gently with the things that matter most to you personally – whether it’s earlier bedtimes, more limited screen time, sharing household chores, managing regular mealtimes – and then build gradually until you have reached the state of equilibrium that works for your family. There are no set rules about what makes a good routine. Be guided by your instincts for creating a healthy but relaxed atmosphere at home. One size certainly does not fit all when it comes to the daily routine in family life!2. Find out how the school has changed
When our children return to full-time school attendance, there'll be new procedures to follow, new signage to understand and new rules to abide by. Once you understand the measures put in place by your school, it will be time to share this information with your children. Consider how to find a balance between remaining light-hearted whilst stressing the importance of following the new rules, so take a little-and-often approach. If your child seems anxious and feels that the daily routine in and around the classroom will be very different, try focusing on the aspects of going to school that have not changed at all. For example, they’ll be wearing the same uniform as before, taking the same lunch box, seeing the same classmates, and still practising times tables.
3. Encourage conversation
Once your child has returned to school, the important thing during this initial period is to try to keep the channels of communication open. Regular chats with your child will help you to manage the transition back to the classroom and it will enable you to check that they are okay. During their first few days, ask them short, focused questions, such as ‘What was your favourite activity today? What story did you read today?’ Once they start answering the simple questions, they’ll feel able to broach more difficult subjects, if they wish. It’s completely natural for children and parents to be anxious about the weeks ahead. Make sure you reassure your child that it’s okay to be worried and offer them the chance to share any concerns they have, even the smallest niggles.
4. Be positive
As we all make our way through the post-lockdown period, try to remain as positive and reassuring as possible with your child, even if you’re feeling anxious yourself. If you have negative feelings or concerns, discuss these issues with another adult or your child’s teacher. Stay focused on your child’s experience and all the exciting opportunities that being back at school, or starting a new school, will bring them. Allow your child to own their feelings and experiences. Let them tell you about the new classroom arrangements or changes to their break times - listen carefully and always respond positively. This will help them to process these changes themselves and to work through any issues, as they ease back into their school environment. Most children are very resilient and should adapt quite easily.
5. Remember to look after yourself too!
We often put taking care of others before ourselves, and now is a good time to redress the balance as your children return to their school-based routine. Begin to build some of the activities that you find relaxing back into your day, such as doing the crossword, listening to a podcast or going for a short walk. We cannot expect to be positive all the time, so if you’re feeling anxious or unhappy, reach out and speak to someone. Talk to your partner, a friend, a relative, anyone who you feel you can be honest with. Whatever happens during the first weeks when your child returns to school, have some fun. Go out on a lunch date with your partner, meet a friend for a cocktail, take a book and sit out somewhere quiet alone. Whatever you love to do, do it!
About the authors
Dawn Willoughby and Angela Buckley are experienced teachers and published authors. Between them, they cover a wide range of subjects, including maths, English, computing, academic skills, history and modern languages. They have taught all school years, from early learners to university students.
Dawn owns and runs two Kumon study centres (Henley-on-Thames and Bracknell) and is an associate lecturer at the Open University. Angela is undertaking doctoral research and is an associate lecturer at Oxford Brookes University.
As parents, they are both passionate about teaching and learning and are keen to help others to support their children at school.
The full published guide, Back to School After Lockdown: How to prepare your child, is available to purchase on Amazon and is full of advice and practical ideas to ease the transition back to in-school learning. ISBN: 978-0-9935640-6-2