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By: Dr Afiniki Akanet, author of Fortitude and Life Without Coffee (Choosing Happiness Over Stress)
Posted on: Aug 30, 2020

Back to School Preparations Post Lockdown

Help to mentally prepare your child for back-to-school-post-lockdown with these top tips from mummy of two, Dr. Afiniki Akanet.

This year, we have experienced many things for the first time. Even the more experienced ones among us have had no clear answers, as they were also experiencing a pandemic and social restrictions like this for the first time.

In spite of all the painful losses, we need to be thankful that it was not worse and that most of us are still here to talk about it. We look on with hope that COVID-19 will remain under control, and we can resume full time schooling for children.

A lot of children in England, UK will have been off school for five months by the time schools resume in September 2020. As parents, we have had good and bad days during homeschooling, and developed a new respect for teachers and key workers.

With the easing of lockdown restrictions, we are advised to stay alert to keep reducing the spread of infection. One of my friends used to love saying this quote, which I feel helps me a lot in this season: “Plan like you will live forever, live like today is your last.”

Instead of focusing on the fact that plans may change and no one knows tomorrow, we can still plan wisely for school resumption and the months ahead, so that we are not struggling when things actually happen. Here a few points for preparing mind, body and spirit.

Mind prep

Realise that things will be different when schools resume this year. Children who had to go to ‘coronavirus school’ (as my daughter called it when they had to go in because of having both parents working in healthcare) have a bit of an idea of how different school is with ‘bubbles’ and social distancing. It is worth taking time out to understand the current plans for your child’s school class, and explain it to them before day 1.

Children are usually more understanding than we think, if we are open and explain that plans could still change, and we do not have all the answers. We, as parents, also need to hold on to our plans flexibly, and try to pass on a calm, positive attitude to our children. Reassure them that teachers and parents are all here to care for them, that health and safety is the main priority, which is why we might need to have periods of homeschooling again in future, for example, if isolation becomes necessary.

Too much negative news can cause worry and anxiety, but it is important to keep reasonably abreast with government updates, because ignorance and ‘fear of the unknown’ can be worse.

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Body prep

Remember to keep fit as a family this summer, especially if you are having more ice-cream and treats. Being physically exhausted due to poor fitness can kill motivation for learning at school. It is often easier to let children spend hours in front of a screen for some peace and quiet, but we need to go out of our way to find more productive ways for children to spend their time - activities that will be of benefit to their health and development.

Many schools now do a ‘daily mile’ walk/run with children. Thankfully, zoos, parks and other activities are also now open, so we can broaden children's minds and keep them entertained while exercising. It can be difficult to maintain good sleep and eating routines during the summer holidays, but it is important to try to get back some routine before school starts, so they do not struggle.

Everyone knows to get school uniforms etc before school starts, but mind and body preparation is more important than fancy school-wear. With the current pandemic, it might be safer to shop online for school uniforms and supplies, if possible. Remember that children under-11 do not have to use face masks in UK shops, if you need to take them in quickly for measurements, for example.

Children who sleep, exercise and eat well will be more alert and ready to learn in school.

Spirit prep

You can discuss any anxieties your children have, and strengthen their spirits with some good news. Discuss things you are grateful for as a family, and any good that has come out of this difficult season.

Getting to know each other better through more time together has been something many have found useful in lockdown. Some parents have taken time off work to stay home with children who have medical conditions that made them more vulnerable to COVID-19. Children may have picked up on some of their parents’ anxieties when they were shielding.

The UK government has now advised that shielding can stop for most, but we all still have to stay safe and prevent infection. It can feel overwhelming when even government/medical advice is not as clear as we would like. A lot seems out of our control, and many of us have had to trust in and pray to a higher power to keep us safe. I have personally found it helpful to teach my children to pray and remember God’s promises when they feel worried or afraid. We cannot always be there with our children, but we can teach them to have faith to overcome any challenges the new academic year might bring.

Here is a bit of wisdom from my six year old daughter, who can’t wait to start year 2!

“Coming back to school is not easy - you might be nervous or excited, but remember that you get to see your teacher and friends!” - Sophie