Road to recovery - Step 1
Welcome to Wellbeing Wednesday, one of our new features looking at physical and mental wellbeing. With the return of children to school this week after another extended period of home learning, I thought I would look at some of the issues that may be arising for our young people – and parents.
It has been a very strange year, and it is almost a year to the day that the first major UK events were suspended in light of the pandemic. Families have had to deal with many different issues; shielding, self-isolation, home-schooling, working from home, key working, online classes, holidays and trips cancelled, loss of income, etc, etc. Some may have enjoyed some aspects of the change in pace these measures brought with them, others may have found it incredibly difficult to navigate their way through the constant changes. How ever you have managed as a family, congratulations on making it this far!
So, this week sees all children returning to school. Again, for some this may be a cause for excitement, for others heightened anxiety. Even children of keyworkers who have been in school throughout may have mixed feeling about everyone coming back. Certainly in my own household there was a sense of “nervoucitement”: a mix of nervousness at being back in large groups, feelings they may not have done enough work, and concern for catching the virus, and excitement at being able to see their friends and teachers every day, to get out the house, and to have real, proper, face-to-face lessons again!
We’ve had lots of conversations about going back to school, we made sure all the bags were ready the day before (and found the missing school dress crumpled up in the bottom of one dance bag!), and, thankfully, they both had a great first day back and came home full of stories of what they did and who they talked to or played with. For me, having had the reluctant child in the past, it was a huge relief that they were both so happy about going, and both had such a great day. Long may it continue!
Some children though may be finding it more difficult going back to school. If they were not very happy at school before then it may be a very daunting prospect to go back. If they have enjoyed being close to family members whilst home-schooling they may find it difficult to leave them behind again. Perhaps if there has been a loss of a family member recently this could make school seem like a difficult thing to manage. Or it may be that they are worried about the virus and it scares them to go back to school. Whatever the reason, if they are unable to tell you (whether this is because they don’t yet have the vocabulary, they have not understood the reason themselves, or they just don’t want to worry you) you may find their behaviour changes as they struggle to process these big emotions. There’s a great video here for younger children, although it may help open up a conversation with older children also, explaining how talking about problems can help them feel better: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CL9fQ2yI_bE/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
For older children it can be more difficult to get them to talk to you at times. We’re their parents, we’re ‘soooo uncool’, we ‘don’t know anything’! Sometimes a hot chocolate and some one-to-one time can be enough to get your child talking, other times they may need someone else to talk to. They may be lucky enough to have a relative or a teacher they feel they can open up to, or they may want someone totally impartial. There are many services out there that older children can access if they want someone to talk to, such as:
Compass BUZZ (https://www.compass-uk.org) a confidential text services for 11-18 year olds (up to 25 years for young people with SEN/D) where they can offer advice, support and signposting for young people who can text them on 07520631168
SHOUT 85258 (https://giveusashout.org) a free text service to anyone in the UK who will listen and support in a time of crisis, all you need to do is text the word SHOUT to 85258
Childline (https://www.childline.org.uk) for support on any issue between 7:30am (9am weekends) and 3:30am by calling 08001111
We all hope our children never need these services, but it’s also good to know they are there and that our young people know they are there if they ever need them.
It’s a strange time for parents as well I’m sure. Some parents have been furloughed or even made redundant, some have been working from home, some have been battling on throughout as keyworkers. Some parents have found home-schooling a challenge, especially those trying to work from home at the same time as supporting young children, or those trying to share devices around everyone’s zoom lessons. Some parents have loved having their brood around them full time. Some are relieved the children are back in school, others will be missing them terribly. Everybody is going to react differently to the situation, and possibly differently on a day to day basis even!
During the initial lockdown last year (Lockdown #1) I quite enjoyed the change in pace, being able to explore our surroundings in the beautiful weather and being able to support the children with their work. But I wasn’t teaching for the first half term as it was all pre-recorded classes, then after that I was only teaching 1 night a week so I had time to support the girls, especially whilst their dad was away training for 4 months. But I was still glad when they were able to go back to school in September as they were more than ready to get back to a routine and see their friends, and I was happy to be getting back to teaching properly.
Lockdown #2 wasn’t bad; the weather wasn’t half a nice – it was November – but at least the girls were still in school. That meant I could get all my admin done during the day and, although I was still teaching 3 evening a week, Matt was around more and it was manageable.
Lockdown #3 however has been a completely different kettle of fish entirely. With 2 children doing online classes, one of whom needs reminding of class times, me working full time running the school, (optimistically?) planning a show in addition to planning and teaching a full timetable, working on other projects to make up for loss of income, and Matt working his firefighter shifts and running Bayfair, it was a busy, busy house. I admit to being more than a little envious at times that Matt could disappear off to South Shields for work and be away from these 4 rooms we live in and converse with other grown-ups! The weather wasn’t inviting me to get out and about in the fresh air, and the short days weren’t doing anything to improve my mood. It was certainly not the happiest few months for me.
However, the weather has improved, the days are getting longer and, even though Matt still gets to escape to adultish (after all they are all fire fighters!) conversation regularly!, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not going to be a quick dash to ‘normality’ (whatever that will be) but we are heading in the right direction with the government’s roadmap. And I’m lucky to have some very supportive friends and family who were there for a chat whenever I needed it.
So, adults: be proud of keeping your little (and sometimes much bigger) humans alive throughout this last year, be proud of supporting whatever education they have had – be it core subjects or learning to cook a meal or even learning to survive a pandemic! Be proud of your achievements this year – whether that is learning long division, completing couch to 5k, or surviving.
And children: be proud of what you have achieved this year – whether that is successfully accessing online lessons each day, learning a new skill, or getting by without your friends. You will always remember this time, and one day I’m sure you will have stories to tell to your children or grandchildren of the time when the whole world was closed!
As I said at the beginning of this blog: it has been a strange year! Some of us have struggled more than others, but we’ve all made it this far. Let us support each other and continue Achieving Our Best Together