Posted in Mental Health, school closures

Five Things to Help When Home-Ed goes Tits Up

I get it.  That first week of school closures was a pleasant surprise for some of us.  Our Superstars were excited to get on with homework!  Some couldn’t wait to log on to Google Classroom, or Purple Mash, or SeeSaw – or dive into the pile of worksheets.

They were excited to spend time with us – bouncing along to PE with Joe, happily helping us in the kitchen, even enthusiastically doing chores!

(OK, that last one might be a stretch!)

And then… everything changed. 

You were left doing PE with Joe alone.

Getting school work done required nagging, and even then it was half-hearted. 

You’ve started wondering what on earth you’re doing wrong! 

This is perfectly natural.  Let me repeat that.

THIS IS COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY NATURAL!

This current situation is a traumatic experience for everyone, children included. We are experiencing grief – grief for the way life was, grief as we miss friends and family, and for some of us, grief for the loss of loved ones from this awful virus.

Some children react to trauma immediately.  Trauma responses may be irritability, anger, being weepy, being withdrawn.  Wanting to be with you constantly, or wanting to be alone.  Being unable to focus.  Feeling apathetic and lethargic, or hyperactive and unable to keep still.  Nightmares and night terrors.  Being unable to sleep,  or wanting to sleep a lot.  Spending hours on devices.

Others have a delayed response – occurring days, weeks, maybe months or years later.  Very few don’t react at all.  Responses will often come and go – one minute they seem absolutely fine, then all of a sudden they’re not.

DON’T feel as though it is your fault – it isn’t!  (You may be experiencing a similar response to this too.)

There is no one-size-fits-all response to trauma, and there is no global solution to it either. 

But here’s FIVE things that can help:

Go with the flow

Be prepared to change routines, or to drop them completely from time to time.  Or be prepared to stick rigidly to a routine if that is what your child is more comfortable with. 

Validate their feelings

They aren’t daft, these Superstars of ours.  They are picking up on our emotions constantly, and will often reflect those back at us.  Be mindful of their feelings – now is the time to reassure them, rather than dismiss fears.  If your child is worried about you becoming ill, then acknowledge that this is possible, but that you are doing all you can to minimise any risk to yourself.  A fear acknowledged and shared is unlikely to magnify and become catastrophic.  And be prepared to do this more than once!

Don’t compare

Don’t compare how your Superstar is doing to another Superstar – even in the same family.  The Teen is coping admirably, The Tween isn’t.  She needs much, much more support than her big brother RIGHT NOW.  (Of course, this could change at any time!).  Don’t compare how your family is doing to any families on social media.  Remember – social media LIES BIG TIME!  You only get to see the best bits! 

You are not their teacher

You are their parent/carer.  You are their support system, the person they come to in a crisis.  You are their HOME.  Yes, they learn lots from you all their life, but you are not their teacher for formal schooling.  So if they simply don’t want you to help them, or get frustrated with you, understand that you are their safe space.  This is really, really important!  You are keeping them safe at home.  THAT’S more important than teaching them how to work out percentages!

Let shit go

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – and if you’re really unlucky, I’ll sing it with actions in an Elsa costume.  LET IT GO!  Get rid of the expectations and work WITH your child when they are struggling with their emotions – even if that means not keeping to a rigid schedule.  If they want to bake buns instead of completing a science project, watch The Trolls for the twentieth time instead of all the educational online lessons that are available – it’s ok.  When they are in the midst of a trauma response, be their safe space.  Their comfort zone.  Their life-line.  You are not alone – children all over the world right now are going through the same thing.

Remember – shout out if you need anything!  We are all in this parenting lark together!

Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay sane, my lovelies!

Posted in Key Stage 2 Support, Mental Health, school closures, Uncategorized

School’s out – Now what?

I’m going to start by quoting one of my very favourite authors, Douglas Adams.

Right now, across the UK, there are hundreds of thousands of households in the same boat.

Me included.

And suddenly we feel responsible for continuing our children’s education for an indeterminate amount of time. Along with all the other responsibilities.

So here’s a five point plan to help.

You are not your child’s school.

Home is their safe space, their sanctuary. Don’t think about setting up at the dining room table with a shit-load of printed out worksheets and keeping them there from 9.00am to 3.00pm. I guarantee you’ll be at each other’s throats by 10.15 (if it lasts that long!)

All our children, however much they are bouncing around in excitement at the thought of no school, are going to be unsettled, anxious, and bewildered by this unprecedented announcement.

You are likely to see behaviour differences, whether that means challenging behaviour, crying, clinging, arguing, over-excitement. Children thrive on routine and we are so far out of normal routine that it can send them slightly loopy. You are the person that they feel comfortable being a pain in the arse to – try and take this as a compliment (however hard that feels!)

Give them time to de-stress. Give them time on electronics (often that is a tool they use to de-stress anyway!) They may sleep more, they may sleep less. They will need the reassurance that you are there for them. A LOT.

Find a routine.

Try and keep to routine bedtimes and getting up times. For The Teen and Tween, this means shifting their hours slightly because both of them feel better getting up a bit later, and going to bed a bit later than we normally do on a school day. But we’ll stick to those times because BOUNDARIES and ROUTINES feel safe. (Yes, they will argue about it. No, I won’t give in. Yes, this will make them feel safe. No, they’ll never admit it.)

Check out any homework packs your child has been given and see if you can sort it into small amounts to be done each day. SMALL being the operative word – unless you have a child that absolutely LOVES worksheets and whatever projects are in there, in which case let them dive right in if that makes them feel good.

Older children may be set work on Google Classrooms, or other online learning (this will probably be for kids in high school). Get them to have a look at what they need to do once a day – I’m the mother of a procrastinator who would worry about what needs to do so much that if she left it a few days the anxiety will make it too stressful to even look at.

Ask for help if any of the work set by the school baffles you and your child! You can always email or message me – on Facebook or on Instagram – I will be happy to help! Or put a shout-out on social media (I’ve seen hundreds of teachers share an offer to help with every single subject!) And Google is your friend too! Try not to get frustrated if you haven’t got a clue how to help them, as this will probably make them frustrated too.

Get outside.

So they can’t meet up with friends or hang around in playgrounds right now, but physical exercise releases those feel-good endorphins. Get outside into a wide open space. You’ll both get exercise, your bodies will make Vitamin D, and it’s great for your mental health too. The National Trust are opening all their parks and grounds FOR FREE right now – a great time to go!

Limit exposure to news.

I’ve started limiting my exposure to watching the daily briefings from the Government. Even that is stressful, but having BBC News on in the background continuously is threatening my mental health. And it’s often worse for our children, who take everything that they hear from adults as COMPLETE FACT – they generally can’t recognise speculation.

Talk to them about it calmly. (Remember, they are looking to YOU to see how to react.) Answer any questions, or try to find out the answers together. Watch Newsround. Brush up on your acting skills if you can and stay upbeat.

Let Shit Go.

For ALL of our kids SOME of the time, and for SOME of our kids ALL of the time, doing set schoolwork will be too stressful. Now’s the chance to do something completely different. Get crafting or making art. Baking or cooking. Decorate a room. Plant seeds or tend a garden. Take photos. Write a journal. Read absolutely anything. Facetime friends and relatives. Learn to sew, knit, crochet. Play games together (yes, I’m including video games in this!) Take naps. Dance. Sing. Play music. Watch a film. Watch make-up and hair tutorials. Coding tutorials are The Teen’s lifeblood, apparently.

All of these things involve LEARNING. (Not that they will notice!)

You could expand this if you wanted – for example, baking could involve maths (measuring the ingredients, working with units of measurement, calculating times in the oven, calculating costs), English (reading the recipe, writing their own version down, following instructions, reading ingredient packaging), gross and fine motor skills (stirring, holding, lifting, pouring) and life skills (washing up. ‘Nuff said.)

I’ll be popping into my Facebook page and Instagram to waffle on LIVE on a regular basis, so please join me over there too!

My lovelies, this is going to be hard, but you are utterly awesome and you – and your Superstars – will get through this. Sending ALL of my love at this time.

Posted in Key Stage 2 Support

Are you a Superstar Student Supporter?

Are you a parent or carer of a child in, or going in to Year 3 to 6? Are you a terrific teaching assistant (TA stands for Totally Awesome, by the way!) working in Key Stage 2?

Then you’re a Superstar Student Supporter!

All our kids deserve to get the best education support possible to help them achieve their potential throughout their school career. And that’s not easy in the age of austerity, government cuts, local authority shortfalls, larger class sizes, poorly supported SEN integration, more rigorous curriculums and over-worked teachers.

I’ve created the Supporting Superstar Students group over on Facebook to give everyone who lives with, loves, supports or works with Key Stage 2 children a safe place to access unique resources, get news and views, connect with other like-minded people and learn more about what our kids are being taught in Key Stage 2.

Come on over and join us!

www.facebook.com/groups/supportingsuperstarstudents