Times of change and transition can be extremely difficult for children to navigate, particularly where there is uncertainty and fear of the unknown. Recent events have caused a major rise in anxiety and mental health conditions globally, and unfortunately children have not been immune to this. As we move into yet another phase of schooling for the year, there are things you can do at home to help your child transition well.
Have a chat!
The most important thing you can do is to have an open, honest conversation with your child as they move back into full time schooling. Discuss any worries or concerns they may have. Write them down so they are black and white in front of you, then guide them to the realisation that these worries may not be as big or as real in life as they are in their head! Continue these chats over the first few weeks as they get used to the new normal.
It helps to discuss any changes in the family routine well in advance so they aren’t faced with any further shocks or surprises. Changes to drop off and pick ups, parent/carer work hours, homework expectations or planned holidays for example. Children have had to cope with so much change over such a short period of time through COVID-19. By minimising and managing further changes you are supporting their emotional health.
Setting clear expectations of your child’s activities and behaviours is crucial to managing emotional outbursts. With the past weeks of home schooling, many children have faced changes in routine which may have included more time using technology. As school returns and home life finds normality, your child may put up a fight as technology restrictions are put in place. Other areas of impact may include study and relationships. My advice here is to set very clear expectations with your child straight away, and together decide on the rewards and consequences for their chosen behaviours.
Managing emotional reactions is crucial to developing social and emotional health. If your child is prone to meltdowns recently, they may be overwhelmed emotionally and have no strategies to help them process these feelings. The number one strategy I teach for managing, processing and controlling emotional reactions is to breathe. There are many different breathing strategies, some of which can be found on my page here. The key is to switch on our parasympathetic nervous system, which evokes calm, and react from our ‘new’ brain (think reasonable and empathetic) rather than our ‘old’ (think fight or flight). As with most new things, it takes practice! Your child won’t be able to utilise this skill in times of need if they do not practice it. There are many guided mindfulness apps and programs available to help with this.
There are many support services available to families who are experiencing a decline in emotional health. For serious concerns, see your doctor as they can refer your child to an Occupational Therapist or Child Psychologist. Online support is available through a variety of services, many including free phone counselling. Outside agencies provide support to families and children also.
At Well Education, I offer a range of emotional wellbeing programs and workshops to guide families and children into social and emotional health. Term 3 enrollments are open now. Please reach out for more information.
At the end of the day remember this, you can’t give from an empty cup! It is crucial to look after your own emotional wellbeing as well as that of your children. Have you taken time for yourself yet today?