By Justine Alter.
Being based in Melbourne and having worked longer and harder during COVID-19 than ever before, it’s not often that Sarah (my work wife and business partner/co-founder in everything Transitioning Well!) get a chance to stop and have a personal reflection – but something today sparked a candid conversation during one of our many daily on-the-run, catch-ups.
We each have school-aged kids returning to school next week. For Sarah, both her children are now returning on Monday – now that her son, in Year 7, is included in those able to return. I still have one of my three kids who will be at home as she is in Year 8.
Sarah mentioned that she’s feeling really mixed about her kids going back to face-to-face learning. She’s trying to prepare them, and herself, for what next week will bring: physically in the actual logistics of the return, and emotionally for what it will mean for their family.
I realised from this brief reflection that I hadn’t actually stopped to get my head around next week at all. I am usually a highly organised, prepared person yet I think a part of me is in denial for what next week may bring. Whilst there is a part that is thrilled my sons will get to return to face-to-face learning (which is where they should be) I am sad for my daughter who will now be alone without her siblings for an extra few weeks.
It’s the nature of transition and the way in which we have all adjusted to a somewhat solitary life in lockdown that has created new norms and ‘safe’ ways of living. For our family, our kids have actually welcomed the time they have spent together and we have relished the lunchtime chatter at the kitchen table. My daughter has taken on the role of preparing lunch for her brothers whilst they have cleaned up. There’s no doubt it’s going to be a lonely few weeks for her without them.
The comfort and safety of lockdown while an oxymoron in itself – means that the pathway out and return to school is scary. No doubt it’s a great step forward, and the announcement that many Victorians have been waiting for, but for many it’s going to require a period of adjustment.
For kids, they’re likely to be exhausted and potentially overwhelmed with the routine of the physical school day, while for parents the return to the school routine is also unsettling – like so many moving parts in this COVID-19 transition it means that some will struggle more than others.
For working parents in particular it’s important that we take the time to reflect, be kind to ourselves and allow ourselves to move through the next phase with the acceptance that this round of transition will take time and the ‘next new normal’ needs to be defined.
Leaders will need to – like so many other times during this pandemic – show compassion, do your best to know your people and provide real support for those that may feel overwhelmed, anxious and just not quite sure how to navigate the next few weeks ahead. Encouraging patience, reminding each other to find moments to take a short break to breathe, check-in with each other, or a minute spent in the fresh air – all of these things will help leaders and their teams manage the various emotions that will be very likely present.
We all need a psychological roadmap to help navigate the next exit on the highway. Organisations have a key role to play in that. Fortunately for me, and for Sarah, we have this knowledge and skillset because of what we do. We would love to help Leaders and your teams – so if we can help you manage this path forward better, whether it be a team Wellbeing Webinar, Leadership and Team Coaching to assist with Transition, or Webinars that help validate how you and your teams are feeling, please get in touch!