After eight weeks of pillow forts, pyjama days and daytime movies, going back to school is a shock to the system - for children and parents. The kids are learning to pack a school bag again and the adults are re-learning the art of putting together a daily lunchbox. Everyone is adjusting to the familiar and unmissed madness of the morning rush.
As we've heard one billion times now, these are unprecedented times. So take a breath, slow down and give yourself a break. Here are five tips on how to take this one step at a time.
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Principals welcome schools reopening at level 2
• Covid 19 coronavirus: School asks children to wait outside gate until staggered entry times
• Covid 19 coronavirus: 82 per cent of kids back at school but rumour scares parents away in Whangārei
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Education Ministry warns of rise in truancy
1. Go easy on yourself
As Tom Papa says, you're doing great! Mornings when you're hustling a kid out the door are always busy, rushed and stressful. Saying no to playing with your kid after two months of leisurely mornings sucks, so take it easy on both of you - don't worry about the toothpaste on their chin or the mismatched socks. It doesn't matter if the lunchbox is full of packaged food while you get back into the swing of things. Fed and dressed is enough for this week.
2. Don't project your worries on to them
Feeling anxious? That's catchy. Negative emotions are just as contagious as positive ones, so if you're feeling a bit weird about your kid returning to school, keep a lid on it. They may be champing at the bit to see their friends again and there's no need to dampen that enthusiasm. Children are well attuned to adult emotions, so resolve to keep your anxiety away from them.
If your child is experiencing feelings of worry around being in crowds again - if they seem withdrawn, they're not sleeping well, if they have physical manifestations such as tummy aches or they're old enough to express their concerns vocally - talk to them with empathy and honesty. It's vital to acknowledge that their feelings are valid - this has been one of the strangest times of all of our lives - and that's discombobulating for the best of us.
3. Ease back into the routine
It's such a cliche but it's true. Kids thrive on routine. Structure is safe and reassuring and helps them to understand the boundaries. But routine went out the window at midnight on March 25, when suddenly we were all up in each other's grills, 24/7. How do you enforce getting dressed when you're not leaving the house all day? What's the use of set meal times when you're staring into the fridge twice an hour?
Now we're heading out into this new world, routine must return - but slowly. Perhaps this week you focus on getting back to reasonable bedtimes and next week you enforce daily bed-making. There's no need to rush it.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
4. Reclaim your time and space
Lockdown brought down all barriers and boundaries. Suddenly you were a parent and a worker and a teacher all at once. Your desk was three steps from your bed which was around the corner from the new school. The dining room table became a workstation, the couch was a dining area and your new co-worker wandered into the bathroom while you were in the shower.
Perhaps now it's time to take something back. Clear the Lego out of the living room and the homework off the coffee table. Home is no longer an education centre and rumpus room in one.
5. Stop worrying about screen time
Maybe it's not ideal if your kid reaches for the iPad at 6am. But maybe it is - for now. If, like in my household, one parent starts work at 6am, what does a few early morning episodes of Teen Titans matter compared to a solid uninterrupted hour of work?
Eight hours in front of the black mirror isn't going to benefit any child but bear in mind that not all screentime is created equal. Learning apps and educational sites such as Reading Eggs and BBC Bitesize are actually pretty great. As is Teen Titans, IMHO.
There are reasons there are no firm guidelines on daily screen-time limits for kids. It's because no one is really sure - there just isn't enough evidence. More important than eliminating screens is being a good parent to them - so if a little screen-time buys you a quick yoga stretch or a chance to get the dinner on, everybody wins.
Your best bet is to introduce your kid to the good stuff (try Art for Kids Hub over Ryan's Toy Review, for example) and keep the real world enticing, so they'll want to rejoin the party when you tell them to give it a rest.