This is a letter that I never thought I would find myself writing, but I find myself writing it to you very much from the heart.
These are unprecedented times. Such times call for remarkable actions. This is a time where we put many things that we have previously prioritised to one side. A time when selflessness must triumph over selfishness and a time where the community across Woodfield, Bilton, Harrogate, North Yorkshire and beyond pulls together in a remarkable way, united towards a common goal – beating the Coronavirus and working towards a brighter future.
Speaking from a school perspective, the Woodfield team wants to be there for you through these uncertain times. Whatever happens in the next few weeks and months, we are in this together and we will all work our hardest and do our best to support you. We will still be answering the phone, answering emails and be there to help in any way we can. Please know that all of us care passionately about helping you and your children, and you have but only to ask if you need assistance. Please remember that the school holds vouchers for the Harrogate District Foodbank based at Mowbray Church. If you require a voucher please ask the school office.
I also want to share with you some of my own advice and thoughts that I hope may be of some use to you in these uncertain times.
In the coming weeks, it is likely that our children will witness things and experience emotions that we would have hoped they would never have had to. They may see people who are ill. They may see people that are suffering. And one of the things that we have to do as the responsible adults in their lives is to explain to them what is going on.
In the situations we will all be faced with, it is important for the adults in the room to stay regulated – to be calm and to reassure children that the adults will take care of them. Children of all ages will pick up on adult anxiety and stress levels. To help manage it, consider not having the news running whilst the kids are in the car or within earshot. Our older children will have information from social media pushed out to them – make sure to ask them what they have read or heard. Speak to them regularly and calmly, taking opportunities to reassure them.
We should all model for our children what good citizenship looks like. Be mindful of how you describe COVID-19 to them and avoid using stigmatising language. Show them how by doing things like shopping responsibly and not bulk-buying or hoarding, and through acts of kindness let us model to our children how we can stand together and protect those more vulnerable than us. Let us teach and model for our children how to reduce the spread of germs with handwashing, and for our younger ones turn handwashing into games or songs and even create rewards for good adherence to being hygienic.
When it is our turn to self-isolate, let us model to our children how to do this properly, showing them how we can be responsible members of society – because there are many people in our community who are more vulnerable and we are also protecting them. When we are sick we should stay at home so we don’t spread illness. By and large, people are recovering from the virus, but we must remember that we are self-isolating to protect those who may not.
Hope is a word that we should hold on to at all times. This outbreak will begin to subside at some point. When it does, we will look back on our own behaviour as individuals. Let us make sure we all look back knowing that we followed our government’s guidelines – regardless of what our personal feelings may be about our leaders or their decisions. We will move forward through tough times and situations together and through collective efforts and adherence to our government’s restrictions on our movements throughout the peaks of this outbreak. Let us look back on this time being proud of how we stood together and faced it, making brave and honourable decisions for the love and well-being of our neighbours.
Yes – we must be good influences on our children through this time and shield them as we can from what is going on. However, we must also look after ourselves as adults.
It is perfectly normal for adults to feel worried about all this. When we feel threatened our survival instincts kick in: fight, flight or freeze. Recognising our own stress reactions is a part of knowing ourselves well. When you are doing the thing you do when you are stressed (For example, ‘fight’ can be being irritable or snappy or obsessing about how much pasta, rice and toilet paper you have! ‘Freeze’ could be insomnia, for example). Try to recognise when you are in these moments and do something to alleviate these feelings, whatever that might be. With me that would probably be playing a silly game with my daughter, rough and tumble with the dog in the garden or watching something funny on Netflix!
One of the ways to combat stress for us all is sticking to routines: regular bedtimes, waking up times and meal times. Continue to power down your kids’ and your devices before bedtime. We all need to sleep well. Finally, get support if you or your child is struggling. We are all just a phone call away.
Finally, I myself am trying to stick to the words in this letter. My daughter has a high temperature; neither myself nor my wife have any symptoms. We are self-isolating and so I won’t be able to come to school for 14 days. Miss Marwood is coordinating things at school in my absence, but the staff and I are in regular contact.
We are populating the class pages on the school website with activities and home-learning tasks you can do with your children. We hope you find these helpful and that you can structure your days using these learning tasks and other creative ways of keeping your children busy and safe.
Stay safe and stay strong, and please remember that we are only on the other end of the phone should you need help with anything. We’ll be in touch again soon.
Jonny Davies and the Woodfield Team.