After eight weeks of pillow forts, pyjama days and daytime movies, going back to school is a shock to the system – for children and parents. The kids are learning to pack a school bag again and the adults are re-learning the art of putting together a daily lunchbox. Everyone is adjusting to the familiar and unmissed madness of the morning rush.
As we’ve heard one billion times now, these are unprecedented times. So take a breath, slow down and give yourself a break. Here are five tips on how to take this one step at a time.
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1. Go easy on yourself
As Tom Papa says, you’re doing great! Mornings when you’re hustling a kid out the door are always busy, rushed and stressful. Saying no to playing with your kid after two months of leisurely mornings sucks, so take it easy on both of you – don’t worry about the toothpaste on their chin or the mismatched socks. It doesn’t matter if the lunchbox is full of packaged food while you get back into the swing of things. Fed and dressed is enough for this week.
2. Don’t project your worries on to them
Feeling anxious? That’s catchy. Negative emotions are just as contagious as positive ones, so if you’re feeling a bit weird about your kid returning to school, keep a lid on it. They may be champing at the bit to see their friends again and there’s no need to dampen that enthusiasm. Children are well attuned to adult emotions, so resolve to keep your anxiety away from them.
If your child is experiencing feelings of worry around being in crowds again – if they seem withdrawn, they’re not sleeping well, if they have physical manifestations such as tummy aches or they’re old enough to express their concerns vocally – talk to them with empathy and honesty. It’s vital to acknowledge that their feelings are valid – this has been one of the strangest times of all of our lives – and that’s discombobulating for the best of us.
3. Ease back into the routine
It’s such a cliche but it’s true. Kids thrive on routine. Structure is safe and reassuring and helps them to understand the boundaries. But routine went out the window at midnight on March 25, when suddenly we were all up in each other’s grills, 24/7. How do you enforce getting dressed when you’re not leaving the house all day? What’s the use of set meal times when you’re staring into the fridge twice an hour?
Now we’re heading out into this new world, routine must return – but slowly. Perhaps this week you focus on getting back to reasonable bedtimes and next week you enforce daily bed-making. There’s no need to rush it.
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