Back to School
After a delightful summer, our niece and nephew are finally back at school. Now, we aren't going to lie and say that we have spent all summer planning fun-filled, educational days for the kids. We both work full time. Therefore, grandparents have had that challenge! We did have a lovely two week holiday to Greece though, which we waited 14 months for. So for us, being back at school is actually more testing than the summer holidays. We forgot their water bottles on the first day back (why is there so much crap to remember?!) We've had two years practice at this and we've definitely got into the rhythm of it (kinda), but we were thrown into the deep end two years ago.
One week after their Mummy died, our nephew started school for the first time and our niece started year one. As expected, our nephew found this transition particularly difficult. There were lots of tears when Uncle and Grandad said goodbye and many more throughout the day. Niece took it in her stride, despite being extremely shy and taking a while to come out of her shell. To support our nephew, the school included him in a nurture group. The intention of this was to take a small group of children away from the large classroom and carry out activities in a quieter environment. This group definitely helped him emotionally and educationally and by the end of his first school year he was walking into his classroom confidently. The nurture group continued during year one and made such a positive change to our nephew's school experience.
Our niece and nephew also had weekly meetings with a counsellor. They attended these meetings together, but also independently. We never received any feedback from these meetings, which we assume is normal procedure, but from what we can gather they were simply a chance for them to spend time away from the chaos of the classroom. They really looked forward to their meetings and always spoke enthusiastically about them. Whenever we asked them what they did with their counsellor, the answer was always "draw with her glitter pens". If they wanted to speak to her about anything, about their grief or their feelings, the opportunity was there. When they finished the school year, it was decided by their counsellor and the school that they no longer needed this service. Whether this is true, or whether counselling was in such high demand, we will never know.
During that first year, Uncle worked from home so he was able to do the school run every day. We thought this consistency was really important for them and did not want them to feel that, even though we were becoming their guardians, we didn't actually want to look after them. Adjusting to school life was a little challenging for us. Most families have 4 or 5 years to prepare for school, not 4 or 5 days. To be honest, we had no idea what we were doing. We made packed lunches for about one week when they first started back at school before we decided that that life was just not for us. Who wants to spend every evening slaving over a packed lunch, wondering whether it's nutritious enough and whether dinner lady is going to cast a judgemental eye on the monster munch?! On a more serious note, we felt an enormous amount of pressure. Realistically, no one expected us to be amazing at school life right away, but we felt like we should be. We wanted our niece and nephew to feel secure and enjoy school despite the circumstances.
Luckily, the school have been unbelievably supportive since day one and continue to understand our circumstances. Their teachers put a lot of effort into building relationships with them and have always given us positive feedback during parents evenings. They have been particularly amazing around important dates; on Mother's Day our niece's teacher helped her to write a card to Mummy, they sat together and thought about the best words to write so our Niece could articulate how she was feeling. Because of all this, our niece and nephew now walk into school with confidence and come home talking positively about their experiences (when they actually remember what it is they've done that day!). Only 4 years to go until secondary school - help!!