The coronavirus pandemic has caused immense disruptions to daily life, many of which have affected young people. Your child might be feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of going back to school after being off for so long. During this transitional time, the support of parents or carers will be crucial to helping them readjust and understand the mix of emotions they may be experiencing.
How to help your child prepare for going back to school
There are many ways you can help your child feel more confident, comfortable and informed about going back to school. Below you’ll find some tips for supporting your child.
Talk to your child
Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with your child about how they are feeling. Talking helps to normalise issues, encouraging your child to acknowledge that they are not alone. You might find it useful to share your own concerns about returning to work so that your child understands that it is okay to feel worried. At the same time, rather than assuming they will only be feeling negative emotions, try asking them if there is anything they are particularly looking forward to.
Keep your child informed
A key element of reassuring your child will be to provide them with as much practical information as you can about what they can expect going back to school. Perhaps your child’s school has introduced social distancing measures, staggered breaks or new layouts within the building. Try to offer as much information as you can so they aren’t met with too many unexpected changes when they return.
Discuss safety measures
With such emphasis on hygiene and isolation during the pandemic, your child might feel intimidated by the thought of returning to a crowded environment. Remind your child of useful safety measures such as washing their hands before and after eating, and inform them of the changes the school will be implementing to keep pupils safe. Let them know about ways they can prevent the spread of germs, such as sneezing into their elbow and avoiding touching their faces.
Talk about school
Talking about school before the child returns to the building can be a helpful way to re-familiarise them with their old routine. This sort of discussion might highlight what they are excited about and also flag up any worries that you can then work through together.
Help your child establish a routine
Going back to school will mean the reintroduction of routine – something that may have gone out the window during lockdown! Help ease your child back into this schedule by reintroducing their old morning and night-time routines.
Encourage a healthy sleep pattern
Sleeping is crucial to protecting your child’s health, mood and cognitive abilities. Teach your child about HEAL, the four pillars of sleep: Health, Environment, Attitude and Lifestyle. Addressing each factor should contribute to easier sleep and subsequently, calmer behaviour.
Come up with coping strategies
As much as you will want to help your child before they return, there is every possibility that they will continue to feel anxious, stressed or overwhelmed once they’re back. Prepare for this likelihood by teaching effective coping strategies such as breathing techniques or mindfulness exercises so that your child can deal with any negative feelings.
Be available for your child
Rather than directly confronting your child about any issues, it can be helpful to create opportunities for them to reach out to you. For example, you may want to go on a walk together or have a baking day. This way, you can create environments where your child feels comfortable and perhaps more willing to reach out.
Try not to put too much pressure on either yourself or your child. Going back to school will bring a lot of changes and require plenty of readjustment so it will be important to stay kind, supportive and open with your child to make the process as easy as possible.
During this unique and challenging time, it is important to care for your child’s mental health – through looking out for signs of stress or anxiety – and remind them not to be afraid to ask for help if they need it.
Has your child faced any difficulties going back to school? Have you found any readjustment tips you’d like to share? Let us know by leaving a comment below