Holidays are great – they give us all a chance to take a breath and relax a bit. Maybe have a few line ins, definitely spend time with your own families, maybe go away or just spend some much needed time doing what you want to do.
For vulnerable children however it could be a different story. If they are adopted or fostered for example they may enjoy much the same as other children. Sometimes though the lack of structure and routine can be very difficult. Having to get up at the same time, do the same things and then come to a school where there’s structure and routine can be comforting and for some makes them feel safe. When we disrupt that routine, however much we may try to replicate it at home, children can regress and find it hard to be out of the ‘normal’ patterns.
For others though, the stress of being at school can be overwhelming in term time and the holidays are a sigh of relief. No expectations, no difficult relationships, no fear of failure or paranoia. Just being able to be who they are in a safe, nurturing environment is what these children need.
Of course for many vulnerable children they are still in stressful home environments and being at school provides some of the essentials they may be missing otherwise. Meals, comfort, attention, safety, chance of different friendships and trust worthy adults who care. All these elements may be missing for them and therefore breaks from school can actually create more stress.
So as educators or those working in education here are a few things to consider once you come back from half term:-
- School can be a scary place for many children. Coming back even after a week can create anxiety. “Will they still like me?”, “Will people make fun of me?”, “Am I really safe with these people and here in this building?”, “What will be expected of me?”. It may take a few days or even weeks to feel safe again even after a weeks break.
- Another new environment can create anxiety. For some children they may not even be used to their home environment yet, if they have just moved placement or just moved in with Grandparents for example. Even if they do know you in the school the change of routine again can trigger some fears of being moved on or loss.
- Children will often regress when stressed. You may have worked hard on a particular area with a child and then after a break they seem to have completely forgotten all you did. It may be that they have just regressed due to stress on the brain from a different environment again. They just need time to adjust. Let them live in that regressive behaviour if you can – so ignore the thumb sucking, baby talk, or clingy behaviour, and build on their emotional reliance, help them feel safe and calm.
- They may be more hypervigilant. The Meerkat brain may be more active as they start to worry again about school and being away from home. They may need to be reassured again that food will be available, that Mum will come and pick them up again at the end of the day. Turning round in the lessons, not being able to concentrate, constant asking questions about what’s happening can all be signs of hypervigilance and anxiety
- They need to know they have been in people’s minds. A week can seem like a long time to a child, particularly to one who is paranoid about what others think about them. They think that you may have forgotten them even in that short space of time. Building on the trust relationship and their self esteem is vital. Let them know you were thinking about them “I went to watch a football match in the half term and I thought of you”. “How did your time in the activity club go?”. Instead of moving quickly onto the term ahead, spend some time commenting on the half term and linking it into today. They need to know they are important to us in order to feel safe and cherished.
I hope this has been helpful in just considering some things you may not have thought about when returning from half term. All the best on this next half term!