Reflecting on the New ‘Normal’

After almost two months of staying at home and adhering to strict rules around physical distancing, restrictions are being relaxed and there is a sense that society is slowly and gradually returning to ‘normal’.

Although there is a long road ahead of us and certain physical distancing measures may remain in place for some time, this weekend you may choose to visit your family and friends, partake in some retail therapy, or go for a picnic. We will all have a new-found appreciation for these simple pleasures. While we may be able to return to some of our regular activities and lifestyle, it is important to remember that things are, in fact, quite different. Society will be fundamentally changed from the pandemic and so will we as individuals. This unique experience has affected everyone differently—some have adapted and enjoyed this new way of living, while others have struggled and may require considerable support in the coming months.

As we embark on yet another significant change, with our Year 11 and 12 students returning to the School this week and remaining students due back in Week 6, we acknowledge that some girls will be eager to return to the familiarity of school life, while others may be feeling overwhelmed, sad or anxious. There will be some girls who are excited to see their friends, leave the confines of their home, learn in classrooms with their teachers, and return to their regular routines. And there will be others who feel sad to leave their family and pets, and miss the more relaxed approach to learning and the extra time they had available for other pursuits. Some may experience a combination of these feelings, a mixture of excitement and nervous anticipation, just as they would at the beginning of the academic year. Perhaps the majority of girls will miss their sleep-ins and freedom to wear their comfortable pants and ugg boots during the School day, and who can blame them?!

Students who are eager to return to school may transition very quickly, while others who are struggling to adjust to the change may need more time to settle in. To use the analogy of learning to swim—some may prefer to dip their toes into the water and test things out. Others may prefer to wade in, gradually getting used to the water and testing their own abilities. Yet others may choose to jump right in, eager to swim on their own in the quickest way possible. We need to keep in mind that everyone will experience the return to ‘normality’ differently and different levels of support may be required based on this.

For parents, you will be holding and guiding your daughters through this next big change and there are many things you can do to support your daughter’s return to school:

  1. Help your daughter re-establish her routine. This may involve adjusting bedtimes and wake-up times, helping your daughter re-establish her morning, afternoon and evening routines, and assisting with organisation and time management.
  2. Be realistic and flexible in your expectations. Allow time for your daughter to adjust to yet another big change in her life. It may take some time for her to settle back into school life and she may be feeling more exhausted than usual.
  3. Encourage your daughter to maintain self-care practices. Help your daughter to maintain some of the positive self-care practices she established during the remote learning period. These might include maintaining good sleep habits, exercise routines, yoga/meditation/mindfulness practices, hobbies and time spent outdoors. Help your daughter identify when she has reached her limit and needs to take a break in order to prioritise her self-care.
  4. Reframe this experience as an opportunity to learn, grow and build resilience. Challenging and stressful experiences such as this provide an opportunity for your daughter to develop new skills to support being able to deal with stress, adapt to changes and build her strength and resilience.
  5. Remind her that everyone is going through the same experience. One of the positives that has come out of this pandemic has been the strong sense of community at BGGS. We are all in this together. Hopefully, your daughter will take comfort knowing that she and her peers are taking on this next step together.
  6. Take the time to reflect. This is the perfect opportunity for the girls to take a moment to reflect on the past two months and consider the things they have learned, challenges they may have experienced, things they would like to carry into the next phase, and their feelings about returning to school.

Mrs Tara McLachlan
School Psychologist