After two years in and out of lockdowns, home-schooling and a general lack of regular routines, our kids are back in the classroom, back to their after-school activities and generally back on track with school life. And while kids are a resilient bunch, getting back into pre-COVID routines can be a bit of a shock to the system and a source of anxiety – in just the same way that heading back into the office is for us adults. However, with experts agreeing that school closures can do more harm than good, how can you support your kids as they rediscover school life?
1. Prioritise communication
Now that we all have lives outside of the four walls of our home, it’s the perfect time to re-establish open discussions and regular communication with your kids. You can help ease their back-to-school anxiety by talking with them about the positives of returning to school – like connecting with friends and offering them reassurance and support with any issues they face.
Practical tip – make family dinners a priority. Banish phones and distractions and use the time to discuss the day that was. Include plenty of open-ended questions and make sure everyone has a chance to be heard.
2. Re-establish routines
With nowhere to be in the morning, getting dressed became a pointless affair, bedtimes crept later, and hobbies were put on hold. Kids thrive with structure, so now that we’re living with COVID and experiencing a new form of normality, re-establishing family routines is essential for reducing stress associated with unpredictability. Getting your children involved in creating these routines helps gain their buy-in (depending on their age), and the routines should include chores that assist with the smooth running of the household.
Practical tip – make sure any chores included in your family routines are age-appropriate. Raising Children has helpful suggestions broken down by age group.
3. Get social without spending a cent
With increased financial pressures off the back of COVID for many, expensive outings and activities are luxuries that might no longer make the budget. Fortunately, with the easing of restrictions on gatherings and the use of facilities, there’s plenty of free fun to be had. Organise a social group with other kids and parents from school and agree on a day to meet up weekly – not only will your children benefit from strengthening bonds with their peers, but it’ll give you a chance to develop a support network with local parents. Whether you head to a local park and bring along cricket bats and soccer balls or make it an afternoon at the beach, all you need to do is pack some snacks and a picnic rug.
Practical tip – take turns organising the week’s meet up spot, so there’s plenty of variety and sharing of the load.
4. Practice positivity and mindfulness
Our mental and emotional health has taken a battering over the last two years, and practising positivity and mindfulness is now as important for kids as it is for us adults. Mindfulness helps with our ability to make peace with uncertainty and focus on what we can control in the present moment. Positivity exercises can help with self-esteem and self-worth and bolster our overall feelings of optimism.
Practical tip – mindfulness activities don’t need to be complicated; start with these from Raising Children. To inject positivity into your family routine, try something as simple as taking turns around the dinner table, saying one great thing about your day.
5. Bring back hobbies and creativity
Although they can be expensive, out of school activities are invaluable for developing social skills and supporting mental wellbeing. Physical activities like sport have plenty of benefits for overall wellbeing and don’t need to cost the earth, and other activities like art and drama allow kids a creative outlet that has been shown to enhance academic, social, and emotional outcomes.
Practical tip – get your child involved in the process of choosing which after school activity they want to do and make sure they don’t take on too much (particularly while they’re still adjusting to being back at school).
6. Set aside time for family activities
After some intense and forced family time over the last couple of years, many of us have lost focus on what fun family time looks like. Take a step back and think about what works for your family and how you can schedule it into your week. Connection and quality time together as a family is super important for your children’s development and can also help keep the lines of communication open.
Practical tip – family time doesn’t need to involve an expensive outing; it can be as simple as heading out on a regular family bike ride, incorporating a family movie night, or cooking together on the weekend. There are loads of free family fun ideas here.
7. Take a holiday these school holidays
We’ve all been juggling school and home for so long, so why not take a well-deserved break from work these school holidays (if you can) and enjoy some time out with your kids. Whether you head away, play tourist in your own town, or dabble in some at-home arts and crafts, removing the pressure of multi-tasking will provide a welcome break for you and your family.
Practical tip – Check out your local state or territory website for things to do this school holidays and make the most of activities and events close to home. And because school holidays aren’t always a breeze, check out these Parent Line school holiday survival tips.
Enjoy the return to normality but be aware it’s not always easy
Socialising and leisure have been foreign concepts for the last few years, so while it’s exciting to look forward to a return to normality, it’s only natural for some anxiety to be present amongst our kids and within ourselves. By taking the time to re-establish pre-COVID routines and injecting fun and positive family time back into our lives, we’ll all reap the benefits.
While we hope you find this information helpful, please note that it is general in nature. Seek professional help if you have any concerns and remember to follow local and state government health guidelines.