Changing routines: seven ways to help students help themselves

At the beginning of the school year, it can take time to switch back into ‘routine’ and this year this is even more challenging with the complexity of managing the Omicron variant. Over the summer break, many families had a rollercoaster ride, managing a huge range of different experiences – isolation, illness, the beach, family celebrations, sleep-ins, increased screen time, freedom to do what you want and constant changing plans – this very starkly contrasts to the daily routines of a school term. Now students and families are managing earlier mornings, regular COVID testing, classes, competing demands, meetings, expectations, rules, being a member of a larger group, being organised and the list goes on. Clearly this can make the transition from long summer holidays to the school term a challenge for some students, as well as for parents and staff.

As we move into the year we are working hard to provide a setting where each student feels that we focus on what they can and want to achieve in Term 1. Throughout their first weeks back, we listen to them without judgement and build relationships with them, we allow them to express their feelings and feel safe, we accept students for who they are, encourage a sense of excitement and engagement and we create an environment where they really enjoy coming to school. Staff will do this by supporting students to see their potential rather than their limitations and set some goals that they can achieve in both the short and long term. Empowering students to chart their own journey is such a wonderful way of supporting students to get ‘up and going’ for the new year – action provides the basis for learning and learning provides the basis for further action.

Over the first couple of weeks, key events and a focus on getting the basics right will hopefully set the momentum especially around developing and strengthening relationships, behaviours and respect. Mr Walter’s wonderful mantras of ‘respecting yourself’, ‘respecting each other’, ‘respecting the environment’, ‘taking every opportunity’ and ‘doing your best’ have set the tone for the year. As a community in a new normal, we need to ensure that the basic physical, social-emotional, and psychological needs of students are met and we build a learning community that ensures students have the opportunity to thrive.

Some simple things that may help with settling into the new year are:

1. Relax and see the journey as a marathon rather than a series of sprints

At the beginning of the year, students may already be overwhelmed with new timetables and teachers, so they do not need extra pressure to perform at home. Lessen your children’s load when it comes to unnecessary tasks, especially during the first few weeks.

2. Accept the challenges and the stress of a new year

This step seems counter intuitive, however, acknowledging the stress that both you as a parent and your children are experiencing makes it that much easier to move beyond it. This is an excellent opportunity for you to sit and talk with your child about what is bothering them, what their fears are and what they could do to move forward.

3. Talk to Heads of House, mentors and teachers about your concerns

Teachers are best placed to understand how your child is going. Discuss your concerns with your child’s teacher or mentor as a first port of call.

4. Connect with other parents

Talk to other parents who may understand exactly what you are going through can provide support. Our Carey community is so supportive and there are many families with huge expertise having had students move through Middle School previously.

5. Keep communication open with your child

The best way to know how your child is going is by create opportunities for a chat. Try to avoid the classic ‘how was school’ question, as this can deter dialogue: the secret is more just to be ‘present’ and weave some questions into a more general discussion.

6. Prioritise sleep

Transferring back into a school year can really impact sleeping patterns. Students often stay up later and wake up later in the holidays. Adequate sleep will help your child cope with anxiety in a healthy way and process new experiences. To help your child get the sleep they need, limit screen time before bed, follow a bedtime routine and keep them from doing anything too exciting before bed. Make sure their bedroom is cool, dark and quiet. It’s best to get into a school sleep routine a week or two before school starts.

7. Be patient

Be patient and let your child know you are there for them. Reassure them they are going to have a great school year, and before they know it, they’ll no longer feel like the new kid.

The year has started extremely well, the students have embraced the need for making sure that we are doing the small things well, such as wearing the uniform with pride, manners, organisation, meeting expectations, being sensible on social media and being kind. Thank you to all the parents and families for supporting us in this initiative; it has certainly made for an excellent start to the year.

Michael Nelson
Head of Middle School

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