It has been just over two weeks since all students returned to school. For many, returning to school was a welcomed change to the COVID lockdown and for others this period of transition has been quite challenging, particularly as new routines and modes of learning had become the norm. In speaking with students many expressed their personal challenge of settling back into school life and reengaging with on-campus learning. What is important to note is that these experiences are not isolated to San Clemente students but rather part of the shared experience of students globally. To help students manage their transition back to on-campus learning I wanted to share a number of practical and useful tips put forward by Dr Prue Salter, a teacher and academic of over 20 years whose expertise centres on how students can achieve their personal best particularly when navigating their way through a global pandemic.
- Be gentle with expectations
Everyone – parents, teachers and students – will be affected differently by the experiences this year, and for different periods of time. We need to remember that this anxiety can manifest in many ways and therefore be gentle for quite some time. We are better off erring on the side of being uber-supportive this year. If you’re concerned about your child’s level of anxiety, do reach out and seek help from a professional.
- Keep lines of communication open
Students who are anxious will often bottle up their worries and concerns. Without being annoying – and it is a fine line – we need to let students know that they can talk about what’s worrying them. Both parents and teachers need to create opportunities that give students permission to share in a non-threatening environment.
- Minimise news consumption and focus on encouraging statistics
If students are anxious, being overexposed to negative news can wear them down. Highlighting the positive and encouraging news and statistics can help students to focus their thoughts in a constructive direction. Make positive plans together for the future so students have good things to focus on instead and focus on what they can control rather than what they can’t.
- Focus on the pillars of health: exercise, sleep and healthy eating
Even though we are no longer in complete lockdown, students are still unable to participate in all of their usual activities. We need to ensure that students are still exercising in some way and perhaps snacking a bit less, with more of a focus on healthy eating. Good sleep has been proven to contribute to happiness, health and academic success time and time again.
- Allow students to reconnect
We need to be generous in allowing students to spend time with friends and extended family members for the rest of this year. Students may find the school day overwhelming and exhausting at the moment. After so much ‘family’ time, don’t be hurt if they aren’t that keen to socialise when they get home and just want to go to their rooms. Don’t let your child be a complete hermit, but do let them have time to themselves to decompress from the day. Many will need to renegotiate dynamics with their peers and this readjustment may be stressful.
- Reset the routine
Routine creates certainty in an uncertain world. Having established routines and guidelines to follow is reassuring. Giving your child a chance to contribute to decisions about the new routine (such as bedtime) is also important. This will include starting to dial back screen time if it was increased during the last few months. In line with our ‘take it slow’ approach, you won’t be going back to how things were earlier this year just yet. It’s more about reducing the screen time to make way for the schoolwork that needs to be done.
- Look for ways to support studies
After your child has been back at school for a week or so, ask them if there’s anything that they’ve fallen behind in or need help with. If they don’t tell you and you have concerns, contact the school and speak to a member of staff directly. While we want students to start getting into good work habits again, there needs to be a ‘gently gently’ approach. They may not be doing as much work at home as they did earlier this year and that’s okay for now.
Rebel Clark, Year 8 Coordinator, Wellbeing