Preparing for school post lockdown

As parents we love our children unconditionally, we want to protect them and we are desperate for them to be happy, confident and resilient. The pandemic has created profound uncertainty for us all and this, naturally has an effect on our own and our children’s emotional health.

Here are a few tips and reflections on how we can help our children to look forward and embrace the new term at school.

Listen to understand not advise

As parents we give advice and we direct our children in the hope that they become happy and healthy adults. But there are times where we could hold back and just listen. Listen to them offload, listen to their worries, funny stories and heartfelt wobbles. No matter how insignificant it seems to us, it is immensely important to them.

As Director of Training and a Listener at the Macclesfield Samaritans, I wholeheartedly believe in the power of active listening. We don’t judge or give advice because we have no idea what our caller’s lives are like. We take thousands of calls every day, we listen and they talk and this helps. Sometimes just listening saves lives. 

Great listening can help our children come out of this crisis.

First, we want to create a great space to listen, with no distractions, no phones and we leave any agenda or assumptions behind. This can be anywhere, in the kitchen, their room, a regular car journey or whilst walking the dog; anywhere, as long as we can give them our full attention in this period. It is quality not quantity that matters. Read more about creating this listening space:

 How do we use the listening wheel?

  • Use silence. Give them space and time to articulate themselves, without butting in to tell our story or give our opinion.
  • React and use short words and noises of encouragement to encourage them more.
  • Ask lots of open question and delve deeper to empathise more. If they ask for our advice, try and help them find their own solutions from the insightful questions we ask.
  • Summarise and clarify what they have said which makes them feel we have listened and want to understand.
  • Reflect back often in between these conversations so they believe we have taken on board their thoughts. We have remembered and listened.

Once our children realise we are listening deeply to understand their feelings, they will be far more likely to listen to our heartfelt advice on moving forward and embracing life again.

Help them take small steps to re-engage with life

During lockdown we have all experienced our world getting smaller. Our children have missed out on school, friendships, parties, exams and much more. 

They may feel worried and scared about doing the things they have always done, and it is important we help them to reach out and embrace life again. If they are reluctant and worried, give them extra encouragement and support and talk to them about the importance of taking these small steps.

Try not to let them shy away, because the longer they leave it, the harder it will get. Help them to set small daily challenges: call up a friend, go on a walk, go into a café and order a drink, arrange a meal or study with a friend. The most important thing is that they leave their comfort zone.

Get them excited about the new term

Let’s help them to look on the positive side of things as much as we can.  Dream and think about how good it is going to be when they return to school, even with the restrictions. They will be with their friends, with real teachers, having a laugh, break time treats, actual rooms and resources. Then there’s home time walks, sweet stops, football kick abouts and gossip.

Sometimes it’s the small things that give us a lift. My daughter, now sixteen, still gets excited over the summer stationary shop (apparently she’s tells me everyone does) all within a budget of course. I think it makes her feel prepared and in control of her first day back, if it works then great.

Reflect and build confidence

Once they have started to take these steps, ask them to reflect on how good it felt to get out and engage in normal activities again. Each good feeling they have will encourage them to set more daily challenges and their confidence will naturally grow. The more they enjoy themselves, the more confidence they will gain and the easier it will get.

Wallow in the good?

To help this positive process, encourage them to keep a reflective diary. When we write the good down, it takes away the chance to dwell on the bad. Here are suggested reflections for each day:

  • List what went well, what they enjoyed, what was fun.
  • Say why they enjoyed each thing and why it was fun.
  • Say how it made them feel, what positive emotion did they feel?
  • List three things are they grateful for that day.

We are in this together

Lastly, I think a great way to approach the new normal, as people are calling it, is to help our children realise that we are all facing this together. We all have our wobbles and worries and we can all support each other. Just knowing we are not alone can really help, especially when we are rationalising things with our children.

Thank you to Wendy Bateman for this article.

Wendy is an experienced life coach and trainer who specialises in emotional well-being, team effectiveness and personal resilience. 

Her varied background as a trainer, life coach, teacher and Samaritans’ Listener has given her a wealth of experience in helping people of all ages reflect and then create their own solutions for finding their way forward in life.

You can contact Wendy via her website

Parental Choice are experts in creating childcare solutions tailored to meet the needs of your unique family.

This can include searching for, and sourcing childcare from birth onward and helping search for education from nursery, through primary/prep and onto senior school.

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