Jessica Rowe dishes out advice for parents as kids head back to school

"Just do your best and also know that you're doing enough."
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Jessica Rowe and Peter Overton’s eldest daughter, Allegra, just turned 15 but the couple are already preparing for another huge milestone for her and their youngest, Giselle, 12.

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Next week the girls will be heading back to school after two years of on-and-off remote learning and it’s anxiety-inducing for kids and parents alike.
“What I’m excited about, and a little bit nervous too on their behalf, is getting them back into that school environment,” Jess, 51, tells Now To Love.

“For so many kids it has been so difficult, they’ve adapted so much … but they’ve really missed that connection, and there’s nothing quite like learning in classroom face to face.”

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Jessica Rowe with her eldest daughter, Allegra, who just turned 15. (Credit: Instagram)

Though the vivacious mother of two will be happy to see the girls head off in their school uniforms again, she can’t help but worry about how they’ll transition back into school life.

From moving back into the classroom, to interacting with their peers and rebuilding friendships impacted by time apart, there’s lots to think about – especially given that this will be Giselle’s first year of high school.

“That’s a massive thing for her and for us. And I know she’s ready, but she is anxious, she’s got the butterflies,” Jess explains.

An avid mental health advocate, she has gone to great lengths to make sure her daughters feel comfortable talking to her about anything that’s worrying them.

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Peter Overton with his younger daughter with Jess, 12-year-old Giselle. (Credit: Instagram)

From Giselle’s nerves at starting her senior education, to Allegra’s experiences as a growing teen, their mum is a big believer in conversation – even when her girls roll their eyes at it.

With millions of Australian parents stressing as their kids prepare to head back to school, the biggest piece of advice Jess can share is just to make space for your kids to talk.

“I find that car – especially with teenagers – is a really good way to have a chat because you’re not making the eye contact,” she says.

“You can bring up something and they can keep [the conversation] going or they can not say anything. It’s important to give them space.

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Peter and Jess celebrating Giselle’s Year 6 graduation in 2021 – now she’s off to high school. (Credit: Instagram)

“I’ve made the mistake where I’ll leap in and keep talking, talking, talking. It’s like, ‘no, just listen’. I’m learning to do that more and more.”

Husband Peter Overton may be the more “serious” parent, in Jess’ words, but he is just as committed to making time for his daughters as they grow up and need to talk.

From grabbing a smoothie with Giselle before weekend sport, to sharing favourite songs with Allegra on evening drives, the seasoned reporter always has time for the girls together and individually.

“For both of us, it’s important to carve out some special time with each of the girls, because they are very different and they need that different approach,” Jess says of the way she and Peter approach parenting.

WATCH: Tina Arena and Jessica Rowe discuss mental illness in lockdown

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“It’s also about being available … to actually be in the moment with them, put your phone away, put away whatever you’re doing.

“It’s just all about conversation, and being present, and being around.”

Of course, Jess and Peter won’t be around when Allegra and Giselle step back into their classrooms next week – but that’s where one of Jess’ other tips comes in.

A huge fan of leaving supportive notes in her girls’ lunchboxes, Jess teamed up with Australian Bananas to promote a new initiative to support kids going back to school.

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Jess teamed up with Australian Bananas to promote a new initiative to support kids going back to school. (Credit: Supplied)

“They call them ‘back to school bananas’, where you can make your own little post-it note and pop it in your kids’ lunch box, which I like to do so they know that you’re thinking of them,” she says.

With more than 41 per cent of parents concerned about their kids’ confidence heading back to school, Australian Bananas is encouraging parents to download handy conversation starters from its website and pop them into their kids’ school lunchbox along with a banana.

Jess adds: “I do some stupid jokes, but with the Australian Bananas, they’ve got ones with a good way to begin a conversation … especially for the younger, primary school-aged kids.”

Not only will it encourage kids to get back into the swing of building face-to-face friendships, Jess says the initiative also takes some of the pressure off when it comes to school lunches.

“I’m, as you know, a proud crap housewife and lunch boxes are always a bit of a challenge for me,” she laughs – especially when she finds smelly ones still in her kids’ school bags from last year.

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“Just do your best and also know that you’re doing enough.”

“I think that’s a nice thing for parents to know as well; you don’t have to make it tricky for yourself. You put a banana in their lunchbox and they’re set, they’re healthy, they’ve got energy.

“And if you add a little cute note or one of these conversations starters … it’s a lovely way for them to know that yes, we are thinking of them and helping them along the way.”

She adds that the back-to-school transition will be hard for everyone after two years of upheaval but urges parents not to beat themselves up about doing things perfectly.

“Just do your best and also know that you’re doing enough,” she says, adding that she often has to remind herself not to beat herself up.

WATCH: Tina Arena and Jessica Rowe discuss mental illness in lockdown

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As for how she’ll handle that first day of sending her girls back to school, there are mixed feelings.

On the one hand, Jess says, parenting is a series of “letting go” moments that can come with a lot of emotion.

On the other hand, she’s not entirely going to miss the months of being locked down in the house with Peter, Giselle and Allegra.

“There’s almost, I’d like to say, a lightness now. I feel excited about this year,” she ends with a laugh.

This article first appeared on our sister site, Now to Love.

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