The demands and pressure on parents are massive

Many parents feel relieved their children will be back to school tomorrow, but others have worries

The demands and pressures on parents fifty years later, in the middle of a pandemic, are massive. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/monkeyb

Are you getting excited about the run-up to Christmas? Are you counting down the days? I have a photograph of myself, aged five, standing in front of our family Advent calendar carefully opening up a window.

It was a well used calendar, made of cardboard, with little pictures (no chocolates!) and it came out of our Christmas box every year to be opened up again, as if for the first time.

You can see the excitement in my eyes, the sense of anticipation as, with my brother and sister, we took turns to open the windows (once every 3 days!) and count down to Christmas.

We were oblivious to the concerns that the adults around us must have experienced and somehow they kept us shielded from their worries about how much it was all going to cost and how much there was to do.

I count myself extremely lucky that my parents had a sense of optimism and positivity about life and a belief that we would be ok and it would all work out in the end. But they didn’t have to cope with a pandemic.

The demands and pressures on parents fifty years later, in the middle of a pandemic, are massive.

Whilst our country is struggling with illness, a shortage of goods, rising prices, etc, families are desperately trying to hold everything together and, for the sake of their children, many are getting on with their lives, and their celebratory preparations as best they can.

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In schools, the usual Christmas activities have begun and our school staff are doing an amazing job holding it all together and being the kind of adults that our children desperately need them to be, now more than ever.

Right across our society, we have been operating in crisis mode for a very long time and there is a limit to how long any human being can do this without it being detrimental to our mental and physical health.

When the adults are not coping, it is often the children who suffer and some children’s home lives at the moment are causing built up anxiety that can play out in untypical and sometimes challenging behaviour in school.

In Paul Dix’s book entitled, ‘When the Adults Change, Everything Changes’ we read about the importance of consistency and routine, calm adult behaviour and adult attention directed to the best conduct rather than the worst. These are strategies that we believe in and we know work for the vast majority of children but we are seeing more children for whom these are not enough.

There is plenty of evidence that children from disadvantaged and poorer backgrounds are over-represented in statistics around exclusions from schools and places in alternative provision. Despite huge efforts in some parts of the school system, particularly when schools focus on restorative approaches to behaviour management as advocated by Dix, there is a limit to the influence that we can have when the pressures on family life are too great.

Over the course of the last year in ASSET schools we have been developing a strategic plan and vision for the future that is highly ambitious for our children and what we want them to achieve. But there is a limit to what we can do within the confines of a school day. Providing the very best education and having the highest expectations is not enough and schools alone cannot solve all of the problems.

We are looking to achieve a much higher level of partnership work within our communities and the organisations that are working within those communities.

The pandemic has shown us the power of collaboration and how much stronger we can be if we work together and we believe that it is now time for a multi-agency approach and a new way of working for the 21st century that provides much greater levels of support for our families and actively seeks to help them overcome the difficulties they face so that every child can look forward to the future with a sense of excitement and can experience the joy of a safe, happy family life.