Back to School Tips for Parents
4th Aug 2020
With schools due to return in Scotland this month and then in September for England and Wales, it is perhaps time to start to look at how we can help to prepare our children. Let’s not forget that a return to school after a normal summer can be a tough period of adjustment for them, but this year, they have certainly been presented with a unique set of circumstances. Some children will have returned to school in part, though perhaps with different children in their class to normal, whilst others may have been at home since March. Some will have missed it, some will have been delighted to be at home. But all of our children will have been subject to change, disruption and uncertainty and so may well need more support than usual in their return to education.
What can we do?
- Talk to your child about the future. Explain that it’s normal to have fears and concerns. Let them know YOU are their safe place and that whatever issues they face in the playground they can always come home and feel safe with you.
- Encourage and motivate your child. The beginning of every school year can be a challenge for young people, but this year this has been off the scale! So many children and young people are worried about their education and in the coming months will need support and encouragement. Let them know that whatever happens, you are there for them and they can always count on you for help.
- Accept that not all children are capable of managing their emotions. Some may be able to come home and discuss that they felt alone, scared, left out or intimidated. Others lack the emotional maturity to provide this and instead may show their feelings in the form of anger or aggression, by acting up or changing their behaviour. Whatever way they demonstrate their reaction to the changes, it is so important that they feel they can display this in front of you as you are their safe place.
- Provide your child with a ‘safe word’ or a ‘safe sentence’ where they know if they say or text it to you, then they need support, or, to escape a situation. This is key with older children where they may well find themselves led into situations outside of the school gates they would rather not be in but don’t know how to extricate themselves. Being able to have a safe word or sentence prepared with you such as ‘What time do we need to leave tomorrow?’ and knowing that that means you will then either call or text to say ‘I need you to come home now please’ or similar allows them to feel a bit more control over their surroundings.
- Prepare a phrase for the bullies – something as simple as ‘Thanks for sharing!’ or ‘That’s not very nice is it.’ Sometimes a simple phrase which implies confidence can be enough to dissuade a bully from continuing in their course of action. A bully thrives on weakness – by providing your child with a few basic confidence techniques this can prevent a lot of trauma in the long term.
- Make sure your children are aware of the support networks that exist for them. Even if they don’t want to come home and discuss it with you they can reach out anonymously to SHOUT on 85258 which is an anonymous text service staffed by trained crisis volunteers or they can email BulliesOut mentors. There are also numerous apps which can help children struggling with their emotions. Chill Panda is a good one to look at.
- Go on social media yourself. You cannot help them if you don’t know what they are up to online. Get on the apps they are on. Create an anonymous profile and get them to accept you as a friend. That way it doesn’t show their friends they have a parent on their social media but it means you have access to their content and what they are posting. Set up the Find Friends app on their phones as a default so you can track their location in case its needed. For younger children – make it a proviso of having a phone that they hand their phone to you at your request. For older children make sure apps access is governed through your account so you can see which apps they are downloading. It isn’t feasible these days to simply state – ‘I won’t give my child a phone’ – but what we can do is use that phone to our advantage and get the phone to work ‘with us’ in protecting our children.
- Speak to your child about kindness. Imagine your child is being bullied or left out and another child comes over and asks them to join them. Imagine your child joining a WhatsApp group and feeling they have been included in the ‘in crowd’ only for every single member of the group to leave as soon as they join. Now imagine a simple text from a friend asking if they are ok. Actions like that can’t easily be replaced by a parent and so the more we can teach our children to be kind to one another the easier their lives should in turn become. A little bit of kindness goes a long way in the playground. As Maya Angelou so adeptly put: ‘ I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
Lucy Howard, 4th August 2020