It's school but not quite as you know it...


As lockdown eases and we face another adjustment to life, a stepping stone to normality with very little normal about it, I’m sure the conversations in our house have been echoed in many other homes.

My son’s response upon hearing about schools reopening was, “I want to stay at home, do my lessons on the iPad, play and watch TV.’ To be honest , I was pleasantly surprised that the lessons had even made the list. He’s of course very excited to see his friends again but going back to school bursts the home bubble which we have been living in for the last 9 weeks , the only bubble where nothing fundamental has changed.

There is no one size fits all conversation to have with children returning to school. Each child’s needs and understanding are different and by virtue of individual characteristics of their staff, pupils, available space and resources, every school appears to have its own slightly different iteration of how going back to school will work. Children do need to be prepared though as well as be reassured about all the changes they will experience. Here’s a few suggestions for topics to keep talking about if your child is heading back to school:

  • Handwashing and hygiene: They will need to wash hands at school more than ever before, after arrival and any transitions as well as all the regular times. We’ve shamelessly utilised YouTube where there are some great handwashing videos and germ explanations (Nanogirl is great) to keep up the motivation. Don’t forget to have some good moisturiser at home for dry little hands. For children with eczema, discuss having their own emollient soap and moisturiser at school to help as much with this as possible. We’ve been practicing sneezing into elbows again too.

  • Masks: masks aren’t recommended in the very young for safety reasons and children are more likely to touch their face more when wearing a mask so it’s more likely you’ll be talking to your child about other people wearing masks. Teachers may be wearing them, especially if they have to break social distancing (such as if a child is hurt). Explaining that the masks help to stop the bugs jumping from person to person is helpful. They can still look a bit daunting though so point out as many people wearing masks as possible on TV and out and about. If your child is going to wear one, let them help choose a design.

  • Social distancing: There’s no doubt that this is a challenge with the younger children as their instincts override rules but there’s a lot that they can and will take on board. We’ve been discussing having their own exciting little ‘base’ and how they won’t be sharing toys , books and crayons in the same way as before. The jumping bugs chat has again been useful with this. We’ve also been preparing for drop off, talking about lining up without crowding and how Mummy can’t go right up to the classroom door anymore. Hopefully we parents will all set a good example when dropping off and picking up too.

  • Belongings: It’s usual for children to want to take something from home to show their friends, especially as they haven’t seen them for so long. Most schools aren’t allowing anything from home including bags, books, toys or leaving bikes or scooters on site so it’s good to pre-empt this before the first morning of school.

  • Listening and Patience: In times of change, these become all the more important and scarce respectively. In the absence of a switch to leave ‘listening ears ‘ constantly on and being able to buy patience credits though , there is no guarantee they will always happen. What we can do is positively practice and reinforce great behaviours and encourage our little ones to listen carefully to their teachers.

The next few weeks for those choosing to go back to school will be another sort of curve for us all to concentrate on and we’ll all learn lots as we go on. Good luck to everyone!

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