Tips for a smooth transition back to school
In metropolitan Melbourne, our children have been in lockdown for weeks.
With stringent controls around a curfew (now lifted) and distances people can move (no more than 5 kilometres from home), our boys have barely seen their classmates and teachers.
Next week in Melbourne marks an important return: not just that kids will be able to see each other and socialise, but that they will be able to recommence learning at school. So what should we expect as parents, and what should we be doing to help our sons have a smooth transition back into the classroom with their friends?
The first goal is for your son to re-engage with his peers and his learning. One of the most important things for a boy in school (especially in the primary years) is that he feels he fits in.
I vividly remember asking my son how high should he wear his socks. It may go without saying, but if your son has grown a lot, check his uniform for fit. If it doesn’t, send a note to his teacher. Have a chat to him about how that might be received, and also how he might be able to respond if he is nervous or unsure.
Reassure him that there will be many boys in a similar position, including those who haven’t had haircuts, and that it is all part of what has been a very different year.
For yourself, set a reminder about packing lunches and having uniform and resources organised the night before. Start to adjust his body clock by making sure he is waking up at school time several days before the first day.
Particularly for children in the lower primary years (but for all of us really), socialisation, social behaviours, self-regulation and the cues that we normally receive from others in schools have been affected by being in lockdown.
Before heading back to school, take a little time to play some games and, as you do, really talk about rules, how they work, how they help us to belong and create fairness. Take a strengths-based approach by encouraging your son to be a good listener, to show others how to share. Around the house, use positive re-enforcement for pro-social behaviours, such as showing care for others, being a helper and having patience.
Monitor anxiety levels
Just like any first day back after a summer holiday, there may be butterflies in the tummy, a great mix of nerves and excitement. It may help to plan the trip to school ahead of time, to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Talk with your son about how he is feeling, ask him about what he enjoys at school, and again normalise it by talking through your own feelings about heading back to school.
If your son does express feelings, make sure these are validated and supported: praise him for having the courage to express his feelings and continue to monitor how he is managing during the first few weeks of term.
Dr Ray Swann is Deputy Headmaster and Head of Crowther Centre at Brighton Grammar School, an all-boys school in Melbourne. His professional background includes consulting, research, lecturing and coaching. He is a father of two teenagers. This article is about Parenting
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