The past two years have forced us to change a lot, we have missed the hugs of family members, our children have celebrated their birthdays without friends, our holidays were cancelled last minute, children were forced indoors to play and many of us switched to working from home while also trying to juggle home schooling. And while transitions have been easier for some than others, we have seen a substantial change in the way we interact. Handshakes have changed to hand washing and face to face catch ups have become FaceTime.
To say it’s been a weird, unsettling time is an understatement. However as more people get vaccinated and restrictions start to ease, it’s time to find the new normal within a new routine. It’s OK if the transition is a little bumpy and it’s important not to compare yourself to other parents as everyone’s new norm will ultimately look a little different.
It’s now your time to thrive, and in turn your children will too, so don’t be afraid to get back outdoors, see friends and eat out at your favourite restaurants again. It’s important to embrace the things you have been unable to do since Covid and not focus too much on wrapping the kids in cotton wool. By starting to reintroduce healthy habits at home your children will adapt to the new norm with ease.
While nobody has all the answers, we thought we’d put together some tips to help you and your family navigate this journey together.
Talk openly to your children about their fears and hesitations.
Start to introduce open and honest conversation at times that the family is all together (like meal times), this will give children an open forum to discuss how they might be feeling or flag any anxiety they may have towards going back to school, attending birthdays or playing with friends. If you see them acting fearfully to an activity, don’t push them too hard, instead chat to them about their reluctancy to do that task and help them through whatever they might be feeling with positive reinforcement.
Listen to them without judgement.
Once a child is given the freedom to call out their fears and anxieties you might find that they are more vocal and curious about life in general. This is a good thing (even though the constant question ‘but why’ – might start to drive you a little crazy, do your best to honest their questions factually and to the point. When you don’t know the answer it’s OK to let them know you aren’t sure but that you care about their question and you’ll find the answer for them.
No matter the size or significance, any type of change can create feelings of discomfort, so why not flip it and embrace the change as an opportunity to create a life at home that is more meaningful. What did you start in lockdown that you can carry into the new normal.
Take a moment to list the things you actually enjoyed about lock-down and don’t be afraid to take those things with you as you re-enter into the new normal.
Separate your feelings from your children’s and project calm and positive behaviour.
When you’re taking care of your little ones, it’s easy to sometimes confuse your feelings with theirs. While it’s totally OK to feel overwhelmed or anxious at what is happening; just keep in mind that kids look too adults to see how they should behave or react. So, make sure you are being calm around them when discussing Covid or the changes it has brought, stay positive and you’ll find your kids will soak up those vibes too.
Don’t rush their transition back to routine.
Ease back into basic routines, early and gradually. Tackle one basic routine at a time. If bedtime has been pushed later than you would have liked, then make it a little earlier each night until you’re back to the kids pre covid bedtimes. Once you’ve nailed that then you can incorporate another routine into the mix.
Be proactive and keep an eye on your children’s mental health.
You can help everyone in your family to handle anxiety and stress by practicing healthy coping skills. It can be as simple as going for family walks of an evening, listening to music, reading or teaching the kids some breathing techniques. It is completely normal for children who are heading back to school to feel some sort of separation anxiety so make sure you are putting time aside to address these concerns and give them a little more of your time just to play together and enjoy each other’s company without distractions of screens (there’s or yours)
Remember your children are resilient and while there may be a few moments of uncertainty when they start back at school this is an exciting time for kids (and parents alike) so embrace the outdoors, and prioritise family time, and don’t let the calendar get filled up again – if we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it has to be that it is OK to slow down and recharge.
For more in-depth information on how you can help your children to transition to re-entry to school and life check out this article from the amazing team at Kids Helpline