Five top tips for parents when school returns: experts

Australian Catholic University (ACU) education expert Associate Professor Miriam Tanti said the reopening of schools was nothing like the traditional back-to-school period.

“A return to school does not have the excitement of new uniforms and stationery or the anticipation of making new friends and the obligatory family photo in school uniform with school bag,” Associate Professor Tanti said.

“There’s no way to predict how a child will respond to returning to school post-pandemic. We haven’t been here before. Some will be excited, others nervous and anxious and some may start out feeling excited but then reality sets in and those feelings can shift too. This is all perfectly normal.”

Fellow ACU education expert Dr Chrissy Monteleone added, “Parents should avoid over-sharing their worries. I also don’t recommend bombarding an already-tired child with questions at the end of each school day. Instead, consider more open-ended questions to prompt a relaxed conversation. For example, “What was the best part of your day?”

Five top tips for parents on kids’ return to school:

  1. Be familiar with new school processes: To avoid worry, parents/carers should be familiar with any new processes and share those processes with any other parent/carer that supports your child. For example, new processes may include mask-wearing, classroom seating arrangements, staggered lunchtimes. Where possible provide information that will reduce the element of surprise – the more information your child has the better.
  2. Time and openness for questioning: Your child will have questions so be sure to give your child the time and your undivided attention in providing answers to those questions. Be open and honest.
  3. Be an active listener: During conversations, try and identify the key message that your child is trying to convey. Take the time to stop what you are doing, look at your child, use non-verbal communication, acknowledge what you hear, summarise what you notice and avoid judgement.
  4. Share your own feelings in an age-appropriate way: Share how you might be feeling about your return to work/office and some of the strategies you will employ – strategies which you can share with your child.
  5. Show them they’re not alone: Prepare both of your lunches and bags for the next day together. Get dressed in the morning, don’t do the school drop off in pyjamas – it’s important that parents don’t just communicate verbally but through action that this is an important time and we’re all in this together.

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