This week many of our children will be returning to school. The start of the school year takes a bit of adjusting at the best of times, particularly if your child is starting for the first time, or transitioning to a new school or into high school. However this year, and with the current outbreak of the Omicron strain of Covid, we are seeing a whole other set of concerns weighing on parents minds.
In fact, in a recent National survey of 3043 families conducted by The Parenthood, it was revealed that 66 percent of Australian parents don’t believe it's safe for children to return to the classroom whilst the pandemic continues as it does.
“In the weeks since the 2021 school year ended, the Covid picture around the country has changed dramatically. Having spent almost two years heeding the strict message that keeping kids home was the best way to keep them and others safe from this virus it is not surprising that against a backdrop of surging cases parents aren’t feeling confident or certain that returning as planned makes sense.” ~ Georgie Dent, Executive Director, The Parenthood
“More than anything parents, as well as teachers, need clear guidance that will instil them with the confidence they need that the safety of their children and school communities is considered paramount,” Dent said.
So what can we do as parents to ensure our children are confident in returning to school during this time?
- Make sure as the time draws nearer that they are getting back into their normal routine/rhythm of sleep and waking, and of course that they are eating well and remaining physically active (not too much screen time).
- Get them to tidy their room in preparation for the school year. It's amazing what clearing out a space can do and how good it feels.
- Ask them to make sure their uniforms are clean and ready to go, including school shoes, and get them involved in any purchasing of new uniforms so they feel just as responsible for themselves as you in helping.
- Involve them in any school shopping, i.e. for stationary, lunch boxes etc. Responsibility is one of the best exercises you can offer children and even though they might complain, if you are consistent, they really thrive from it.
- Talk to your children about how they feel going back to school during the pandemic, discussing also the practical components of hygiene and looking after themselves. Keep it real and to the facts, no need to overwhelm them.
- Call on other areas of support such as other parents or professionals who might be more skilled in this area if needed, or even to support you, if you too have concerns. Children are very sensitive to what their parents are feeling so it's important to be transparent with them and seek support yourself if you need to.
As parents, we are very aware when our children feel stressed and it's important to honour if you are feeling this, and to remind ourselves that there is no right or wrong way of preparing them for returning to school. There is only the responsibility to support them to express and be themselves no matter what may be challenging them.
So long as we remain open with our children, and ensure they feel confident in expressing their concerns with us, then we are already on track. And if not, then it is simply that there is some work to do.
So listen, stay open, and encourage their expression whereever you can.
Although the pandemic is certainly throwing constant curve balls at us all, it doesn’t have to run our lives, nor take away from the joy we share with our children, and that they too can share with their friends and teachers going ‘back at school’.
Further Support and Resources
Education NSW - Back to school tips for parents