Coping With The New School Day
School drop-offs look decidedly different this year – if they are happening at all. Where once there were hurried hugs and calls of “wait for me” at the gate, now children stand in sombre queues to have their bags sanitised and their temperatures taken.
If there is a plus side to this situation, says Rebecca Pretorius of Crimson Education, it is the fact that first-time schoolgoers have no preconception of what school should be like. For them, this is normal, no matter what we as parents think – and we should capitalise on that by acting as if they’re right, rather than lamenting what things “should” be like.
Of course, there’s still the strangeness of online learning to deal with and the fact that many children feel uncomfortable raising their hands or trying to forge a connection over a Zoom classroom. Pretorius’ solution is to help them become familiar with these platforms by engaging with friends and family online. Then, if they verbalise their misgivings, you can remind them that talking to their teacher online isn’t vastly different from talking to Gran.
Still battling? Spark Schools’ Bailey Blake says it is important to discuss your context with the school. If you have a full-time job or children in different grades, home schooling – never easy – is bound to be even more difficult, but if your child’s teacher knows what your typical day looks like, they may be able to assist.
While you’re bemoaning the challenges you are facing with this new-look education system, spare a thought for how your child may be feeling, says Dr Jacques Mostert of ADvTECH’s Abbotts College. “While it’s fortunate that children are highly adaptable, this may work to their detriment – children may come to view the current way of socialising, with masks and from a distance, as the norm.”
Mostert is particularly concerned with the loss of opportunities to practise social interaction that has come about with the current structure of school days, noting that it may give rise to insecurity. “Children don’t express themselves primarily through conversation as we do, so spending break in a circle, rather than playing, may feel very strange.” He says that the best way to help them prepare is to, first of all, remind them that school – and learning, in particular – is intrinsically fun. Then, allow them to make up for all that they’re missing at school by spending time outdoors, getting dirty, at home. Joining in their games, from hide-and-seek to dolls, will also help. Mostert advocates helping your child grow their communication skills by asking them questions and getting them talking so that those “sitting in a circle” situations feel less awkward. For instance, instead of asking, “how was your day?” ask, “what made you happy, excited or scared today?” Build your child’s confidence by teaching them life skills through basic chores, like cooking. “And help them cultivate a positive attitude by being deliberately optimistic and creating a gratitude list to encourage a happy outlook.”