The coronavirus pandemic brought about a lot of changes for young people, who are now having to return to “normal” life. But how do you navigate these changes and how can you support your child? Amity Amsterdam shares five helpful tips for parents.

With children re-entering the traditional classroom setting after the pandemic, it is apparent that children of all ages missed two years of essential social skill development that the school environment offers. Children have grown up, their routines might have changed and the family dynamics can be different which sometimes manifests in increased anxiety, isolation or self-esteem issues that have not been present before.

Expect a range of emotionsRemote learning might have been a welcome relief to some children, but a very lonely period of disengagement for others. No matter how they handled the last two years of alternative learning environments, they are all now re-entering the traditional classroom. This may bring feelings of excitement and eagerness, but other children might now feel socially removed from their peers and teachers. Young people will need time (and patience) to relearn simple behaviours such as sitting at a desk for long periods, being away from home all day, and socialising with peers.

An experience called “after-school restraint collapse” is also to be expected, especially among children under the age of 12 years old with less emotional resiliency. Although it can be stressful on the receiving end as the adult, it is completely natural for children to release their emotional, mental and physical energy as soon as the school day – which demands so much of their self-control – ends. Home is then a safe place to release the tension they held on to throughout the day.

Validate their feelingsAdults can sometimes be dismissive of children’s problems because they don’t seem like such a big deal to us. For many children, their coping strategies for these problems and stressors were stripped away during the pandemic. They were physically distanced from many people and activities that normally help them process their feelings and manage stress in a healthy way, like hanging out with friends or playing sports.

It is paramount, then, for adults to make sure children feel that we understand what they are going through and that what they feel is valid. Encourage your children to talk about what’s going on by asking questions, rather than urging them to simply “get over it.”

Keep checking inCuriosity fuels connection. Take things slowly when children get home from school, and offer them a snack and some quiet time. Then, instead of asking “How was your day?”, try something more specific like “What was the best part of your day?” or “What did you do today that made you think hard?”

Checking in might not fix all the problems from our children’s day (it is not our job to take away their worries), but we can help them process their feelings. Especially as they get older, if teenagers are sharing what they went through at school that day, a helpful question for the adult to ask is: “Do you want my advice, or do you want me to listen?” This implies that we are showing up for them without judgement and we are allowing them to take ownership of what type of support they need at that moment.

Ease back into routines and think about new onesPandemic life caused many routines to be shaken up both at school and at home. Children might have had increased screen time, later bedtimes, and flexible mealtimes. Try to reestablish regular sleep and wake times, family meals, and structure.

Do keep in mind that children have continued to mature during this time and what worked pre-pandemic might not make as much sense now that they are a couple of years older. Teenagers might ask for more independence or start engaging in developmentally natural “risky behaviours,” so regularly norming on your family values is important.

Reach out to your school counsellorSchool counsellors are here to help! Encourage your children to speak with their school counsellor if they would like an additional safe space to talk about the transition back into a post-pandemic life. Counsellors can help them develop coping strategies, emotional regulation, executive functioning skills, social awareness, and goals / interests. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for counselling; it is individualised for your child and part of the regular educational services at almost all international schools now.

Amity International School Amsterdam now offers education for children up to 18 years old. Learn more about the inquiry-based curriculum or schedule a visit with the Admissions team to learn if Amity is the right school for your child.

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