This year's transition between classes has been a little different due to the COVID:19 school closure. Teaching staff offered group calls via Microsoft teams in the last few weeks of term which children and staff alike enjoyed and answered any questions that children had regarding the move to their new classes. Below are some additional materials that can support children and parents in the transition into new classes and back into school life after the full school closure from March to July.
Guidance for Parents.docx - this NHS document provides information to parents regarding supporting children in returning to school and addressing any worries or concerns you may have.
Going back to school - simple Social Story with symbols - This social story is a simple way in supporting EYFS and KS1 children in understanding the changes that have taken place and how they may feel returning to school.
Back to School Social Story longer version with symbols - This social story is a simple way in supporting EYFS and KS1 children in understanding the changes that have taken place and how they may feel returning to school.
Helping my child return to school after coronavirus - The document was produced by the Lancashire EYFS team and has practical ideas on how to support children in returning to school through activities, talk and stories.
Advice and resources for parents from Acorn Psychology Services:
If your child is able to, get them talking about their thoughts and feelings around returning to school.
- A Distraction Free Zone: More often than not we engage in conversations whilst ‘busying’ with other activities. Try to make time to talk in a space that is free from distractions. You may wish to schedule this time each day/week, whatever works for you and your family.
- Child-Centred Approach: We often find in school settings that children take some time to start sharing their thoughts and feelings, even with an adult who they know and trust. Given the hierarchical nature of adult-child relationships in school, children often need time and practice before they will talk more than they will listen, or before they will attempt to find solutions to their problems instead of being told what to do by the adult. Parent-child relationships are of course quite different, but still most children look to their parents to lead a conversation or speak for them. It can be powerful opening up a space for your child to talk and not filling the gaps with our own thoughts, feelings, and conclusions.
- Active Listening: Have you ever had an experience where you felt someone listened, but they didn’t really hear? This skill is used in counselling and takes a long time to master, but it is useful to be aware of. Features of this skill include looking at the person talking, not interrupting, and really trying to process and take on board what is being said, as opposed to forming a response in your head as they are speaking.
- Effective Questioning: Try to ask questions that encourage your child to really explore their own thoughts, feelings, and ideas. We often find children require significantly more prompts than adults due to their developing self-awareness, examples include questions such as ‘how does that make you feel?’, ‘what do you think about X?’.
- No Judgement: Try to reserve judgement when your child is opening up about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. We as adults often minimise children’s experiences because they appear disproportionate to us, for example when a child is inconsolable because their balloon has flown away. During this time, try to fight the temptation to do this, or to label any feelings or behaviours, for example suggesting that a child is being silly.
- Mind Mindedness: This is an approach that recognises that children are independent beings with their own unique thoughts and feelings. The idea is that parents ‘tune in’ to their children’s emotions, desires, and interests. To use mind-mindedness with your children in this situation you will be ‘tuning in’ to what they are thinking and feeling to open up conversation. Examples of phrases may include ‘I wonder if you are quiet because you are feeling nervous about going to school today?’ or ‘I wonder if you are jumping around because you are excited to see your friends at school’ followed by a strategy they could use or a chance to talk e.g. ‘do you want to tell me why you feel nervous?’ or ‘it’s great that you are so excited but we need to get ready now’ etc.
- Be Kind to Yourself: Listening to your child’s anxieties is emotionally draining. It takes years of personal therapy, training and supervision before therapists are considered emotionally robust enough to work with strangers, yet parents and guardians are expected to carry the weight of their own anxieties alongside that of their children. Remember you cannot pour from an empty cup, so sometimes having these conversations might not be appropriate. This has been a difficult time for everyone. So, for anyone who needs to hear it, you are doing a wonderful job.
For many families, lockdown has meant children have spent more time than ever with parents or guardians. Many have established new routines which has provided them with a safety net to escape the uncertainty. As a consequence, a number of children may experience separation anxiety upon their return to school even if it has never been a problem before.
If you think your child might struggle with separation anxiety you may wish to use a transitional object. You might use a physical object during the holidays such as a special piece of jewellery, a painted stone, a toy etc. Taking physical objects into school may not be possible however, here are some strategies as alternative when your child returns to school due to COVID-19 restrictions.
- Draw an identical doodle on both your wrist and your child’s wrist.
- Sew a little shape on the inside of your child’s uniform and do the same on a piece of your clothing.
The idea here is that when your child looks at the object, doodle, or embroidery they will feel that little bit safer if they are feeling uncertain as they navigate their school setting post COVID-19. Some children like the idea that when they press the doodle or shape their parent will feel it and know they are thinking about them.
MINDFULNESS FOR CHILDREN
‘Mindfulness is useful for children and adults alike, with some children as young as nursery age learning about it in school. If you watch a child absorbed in play, you will see they are mini mindfulness masters! Mindfulness is paying attention, noticing what is happening outside of you, as well as your thoughts and feelings, and letting it all be as it is. It’s a skill that helps us cope with big emotions and challenging experiences and, just like a muscle, it’s something we can all build with practice.’
Here are our favourite mindfulness exercises:
(The following strategies have been taken from https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/10-mindfulness-exercises-kids)
1. Visualise your safe place – to feel grounded
Where are your favourite calm and safe places in nature? You can visit them anytime in your mind. You could write or draw a journey to your favourite place, describing with all your senses how it feels to be there.
2. Sound meditation – to fuel curiosity
Snuggle down somewhere safe, close your eyes, and listen to all the sounds around you. What can you hear? The clink of coffee cups, snippets of conversation, sounds from nature. Get curious and feel the buzz of life around you.
3. Warrior pose – for confidence and concentration
Stand up tall with your feet wide apart. Turn your right toes out and press your left heel away. Bend your right knee deeply, stretch your arms out at shoulder height and make like a surfer. Hold this pose for a few relaxed breaths, feeling the strength of your body, then shake out your legs and try it out on the other side. This is a great distractor from worried thoughts.
4. Balloon belly breathing – to soothe
Lie down somewhere comfy and imagine there is a balloon in your tummy. As you breathe in, imagine the balloon slowly inflating, as you breathe out, the balloon deflates. Children can rest their favourite toy on their tummy and let them join in!
5. Savour your food – to encourage gratitude
The next time you have your favourite treat, see if you can make it into a ritual of happiness and thanks. Don’t let a second of pleasure pass you by unnoticed – the scent, how it feels in your hand, against your lips, the flavour on your tongue, the texture as you chew and the sensation as you finally swallow it. Even more delicious when you savour it!
6. Embrace music – to switch up your mood
Harness the mood boosting power of music by making your own playlists – one that helps you feel peaceful, one to help you focus and another to give you a feel-good hit. A good old sing always lifts the spirits, too.
7. Make your mind garden beautiful – to grow happy thoughts
There is a garden in your mind, made by all your thoughts. Thoughts you enjoy plant the seeds for flowers you love. Worries or nasty thoughts plant the seeds for weeds. Now every garden has weeds so it’s not about eliminating unhappy thoughts, but you can choose where you direct the sun and water by nurturing the thoughts that help you feel good. It all comes down to where you place your attention so choose wisely to grow a beautiful mind garden. Can you draw or describe yours?
8. Legs up the wall – to soften and drop
Grab a blanket and a pillow, take a seat with your side against the wall and enjoy some time out. Roll onto your back, slide your legs up the wall, arrange the pillow under your head and drape the blanket over you for comfort. Now let your body flop and drop, the whole length of your legs held by the wall. There is nothing to be done right now and nowhere else to be.
9. Get creative – to express yourself
Let your feelings out with a spot of art. The choice is yours! You can journal, colour a mandala, make a model from recycling, paint up a storm or make your own animation on Scratch. Enjoy immersing yourself in the act of being creative – no hard work, just fun.
10. Hug it out – to feel connected
Cuddles are like food for the soul, helping us feel safe and calm. Enjoy building your mindfulness muscles by giving a loving hug your full attention. Can you feel your heart beating, wrapped up in care? Tell yourself or your child: you are safe, you are loved, you are held.
Below are some links to mindfulness type activities that we recommend:
- Mindfulness support from Mind
- Smiling Mind Mindfulness Resources
- Kids relaxation techniques – Guided Imagery
- Positive Psychology – Mindfulness for Children
- Puppy Mind by Andrew Jordan Nance
- Mindfulness Colouring
- Mindfulness Rainbow Walk (see attached picture)
- Star Breathing