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With schools in England returning this week and staggered returns across the UK it’s a tricky time for working dads and their families.
Children’s education has suffered during the pandemic. With a year of inconsistent teaching and big changes in exams, their school routines have been far from normal. Schools in England have reopened since March 8th. Whilst this has been music to some parent’s ears, others are worried about their child’s transition back to their old routine.
Children are excited to be reunited with friends and teachers again, but they might be anxious to return to a classroom environment. Home-schooling differs in every household; some children might have adapted well to their parents becoming their educators whilst others have struggled to distinguish between parent and teacher.
If you are worried about your child’s safety and mental health, Richard Evans, education expert and founder of The Profs has shared five ways to help them ease back into their school routine. The most important thing is not to be too hard on yourself. Everyone is in the same position and there are no right or wrong answers.
During times of uncertainty, family time is crucial. Make a habit of introducing activities or games you can organise and do together! Create fun activities with a clear distinction from schoolwork, your child will be happy to have a school free environment at home with you again. There are many cost-effective ideas you can utilise, such as garden scavenger hunts and baking cupcakes. Ideas that allow your child to use their imagination and switch off from screen time will be the most beneficial to their mental health.
With the return of school, be patient in building back your child’s usual sleep schedule. Don’t be surprised if home schooling has altered their bedtime. Sleeping late can impact their next day or even week, and lack of sleep can have an adverse effect on children’s alertness in the classroom. To make a gradual change, communicate with your child. Make ground rules such as no screen time 10 minutes before bed and increase the limit as days go on until they’ve settled into a realistic sleep pattern. If your child has sleep struggles due to anxiety, encourage them to talk to friends and family as much as they can.
Encouraging conversation is important when your child returns to school. Regular chats about the new dynamic in the classroom will help to manage their transition back. Wearing masks and washing hands more than normal can make the classroom feel like a different environment. To allay any fears, ask them short questions such as ‘What activities did you enjoy the most today?’, which will hopefully open them up to discuss any bigger concerns they have. However, give them space straight after school. Save the questions for when they’re relaxed and changed out of their uniform. And start by talking about your day to open the discussion. Always ensure your child that it is natural to feel uneasy, remove any pressure to return to school with no issues. Keep all communication open, ask about their friends, teachers and lessons.
Having been at home for the most part of the year, your child might be missing creature comforts. To help them enjoy their school days, provide an incentive chart to keep their momentum going. For example, on Wednesdays you could implement a mid-week treat night, their choice of film and snacks. The break in the week provides an opportunity to treat your child and offers them something to look forward to at home. Keep a chart in their room so they can count down the days until their treat and visualise the school week. If you went for regular walks during lockdown, you could implement them into their morning commute. Even if your child’s school is further away, make time for a quick walk around your area before getting in the car. This will increase alertness and provide them with a similar activity to their lockdown routines.
You can be realistic and positive in unison. Remember not to be hard on yourself. It’s OK to confide in others about how you feel. Converse with your child’s teachers. Always listen intently when your child informs you about the new implication at school and changes to their classroom environment. This will help to release their thoughts and process the changes in their own way. Balance between light-hearted and serious when discussing new rules, but also stress the reasons behind the changes. It’s also important to establish the aspects of school that haven’t changed, such as their uniform and friends.
Always look after yourself. If you’re feeling uncertain, talk to someone and be honest. The first few weeks back might be daunting for the whole family, but you will get through it.