With schools around the country getting ready to welcome back their learners, moms generally fall into two camps: those who cannot wait to see their kiddos reunited with their friends and getting to grips with new skills, and those who have a few worries about the implications about getting back into the classroom.
But guess what: you’re not the only one with big feelings about this significant moment. Although your little one may be excited about going back to school, there are likely to be some wobbly moments as they realise they’re going to be parted from you for the first time in 2 months. More than this, they’ll have to adjust to a new reality of social distancing and wearing a mask.
The good news is this isn’t as uncomfortable for your child as it is may be for you. “Remember, your child trusts school as a safe space. They don’t have your anxieties about infections and risks – so don’t tell them anything that may lead to their worrying,” says Joan Tindale, principal of Greenpark Nursery School.
Start talking, now
Even so, there are certain things that you need to tell your child. For example, you’ll need to remind them that the classroom is going to be a little different. “Start talking about this as soon as you get the word from your school that it’s ok to return,” Joan advises. “Tell them why it’s important to wear a mask – maybe even let them wear it for a few hours while they play at home so they can get used to the feeling. Get them into the habit of handwashing, too.”
Sorting out separation anxiety
While you may have been crying out for a few moment’s peace, your little one probably feels she’s been living her best life, having you around all the time. It’s understandable she may have feelings of separation anxiety now that she’s leaving you – even if she’s always loved school. “Remind her of all the good things school means, like being with her friends,” Joan says. “Make older kids feel important by telling them they’ll have to help the little ones find their way around the school again. Make them excited about the new things they’re going to learn.” One of the big plusses about the new school protocols which aim to limit the number of people on site is that all parents have to abide by the regulations. This means everyone will get a quick kiss before moving off to the classroom, and you won’t have to explain why Olivia’s mom waits for her until school starts while you have to dash off. “Most importantly, point out that your little one can always tell her teacher to call you if she’s feeling uncomfortable,” says Joan.
The most important thing is to make sure your child feels secure. By now, they probably understand there’s a virus that makes some people very sick. But, to make sure they’re not unduly afraid, Joan says it’s a good idea to talk to your kids about the countries that have already made it through to the ‘other side’, and are on the road to recovery. This shows them that life will return to normal, she explains. Remind them, too, that the government has a plan to keep us safe.
More about the expert:
Joan Tindale is an ECD specialist and principal of Greenpark Nursery School. Learn more about Joan Tindale here.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.