Sarah Jacobs, PaJeS Wellbeing Practitioner
We made it! Finally, after what has for most of us been a six-month hiatus in their schooling, our children are back at school, and it is expected to be a bumpy ride. We may have doubted this day would come, but it finally has and now what? Should we as parents and educators just expect that our children will merrily skip back into the classroom without any bumps or hiccups? Should our teachers be jumping back into the curriculum in a bid to catch up with lost time? Or should we all be working together to allow our children the time and space they need to take stock of the last six months and be able to express emotion and feelings?
Many of us have been concerned with making sure our children are familiar with the new ‘rules’ of the return to school. It is important that they follow the one-way systems, know how to wash their hands and social distance. These instructions are crucial to helping us all stay safe and in keeping our children at school. However, have we adults stopped to consider the smaller things, that we may gloss over, that are really bothering our children? I know I had not, until today.
For many children school bags are not allowed, along with pencil cases and non-disposable water bottles. New school bags and new pencil cases of various designs were up until this academic year symbolic of the new start, and part of the back to school ritual. Perhaps an irrelevance and tedious shopping task to us adults and lost in the list of things we as parents and teachers need to think about in these difficult times. But to our children they are a huge part of their back to school routine and another loss of the once normal that they knew. On social media last week, I noted a post from a mother whose child was beside herself as she could no longer take her security cuddly toy into school. This left her distraught and added to her already heightened worries and separation anxiety. The ingenious mother had found an alternative to her child’s security cuddly, by sewing two red kisses onto the sleeve of her daughter’s cardigan. She explained to her daughter that when she felt anxious or missed home, she simply had to touch the pre-loaded mummy kisses on her sleeve.
This post on social media, rang alarm bells in my head. In our struggle to regain normality, and adapt to our new normal, we are overlooking important signs that our children are struggling with much more than coping with social distancing or wearing of face masks or even returning to school after the six month gap in their education. They are having to accept that some of the small things that us adults had not even thought about, really matter to them and can adversely affect their wellbeing.
So, perhaps along with questioning how we catch up on the months of missed schooling, or re-establish and re-engage our children in education, we should all, as parents and educators, ask them what it is that they actually miss? Together with how we can help them to adjust to new routines, and like the mother on social media, help our children find different ways to get them through these challenging times.