How to cope with going back to school after lockdown
After a very long four months of lockdown, our children have finally been given the go ahead to return to school on the 8th March. But for some young people, they may not be feeling so exited to return to school after such a long time of homeschooling. How can we help our children cope with going back to school after lockdown?
Why some young people may be worried about the return to school
For some young people, the excitement of returning to school may be overshadowed by feelings of anxiety, worry, irritability and fear. They may feel:
- worried to catch coronavirus in case they pass it on to vulnerable family members
- safer at home and anxious to leave the security home provides
- home is less stressful and a relief from the pressures of school life
- worried their friendship groups have changed
- anxious and overwhelmed with the everlasting changes that have been thrusted upon us over the past year due to the pandemic
This is particularly so for children who have pre-existing health conditions or learning difficulties such as autism. For children who are on the autism spectrum, the change of routine and predictability can be a difficult transition.
What signs should we look out for in our children
There are some obvious and not so obvious signs your child may be feeling anxious and worried about the return to school.
- Expressing worry and anxiety
- Avoidance of the discussion of returning to school
- Seeking a lot of reassurance and asking a lot of questions for clarity
- Not acting their normal selves e.g. not enjoying their usual activites or losing their appetite
- Panic type symptons such as headaches, stomach aches, not beeing able to sleep, nausea, feeling shaky or tense
How we can help our children to prepare for the return to school
There are some things we can do as parents and caregivers to help our children feel less worried and anxious about the return to school.
1. Manage our own emotions
Children are sensitive to how parents and caregivers feel, so managing our own anxieties and worries will give our children the confidence needed to tackle their own insecurities. If possible, we should exuberate confidence so our children can see from our actions there is nothing to worry about.
2. Talk, listen and reassure
Talk and listen to our child’s concerns. Give them the opportunity to express themselves, listen patiently and help them understand their emotions by naming them. Explain to them their feelings are normal and you can empthasise with their feelings. It is important to acknowledge your child’s feelings, and it really will NOT help by being dismissive such as telling them to ‘just get on with it’ or that ‘they are feeling silly about being anxious’.
Try and offer positives to balance their negative concerns, for example, if they are worried about schoolwork being too challenging, reassure them the teachers do not expect children to have kept up the pace during lockdown and not only will you support them if they need help the teachers will too. Show them you are there to listen to them when they have worries which will help them feel less alone.
3. Make a plan with your child
For children to feel secure in a time where they are anxious about unpredictablity, it is important to plan and discuss everything with them. Allowing them to have as much control as possible will make returning back to school less daunting. You could discuss which clothes they plan to wear, what they would like to have in their packed lunch, which pencil case they would like to bring etc.
4. Introduce a back to school routine early
Begin introducing your child to a back to school routine so they are prepared to wake up at the right time. Prepare by adjusting their sleep schedule and enforcing a night time routine. You can find more ways to help your child rest well with The Sleep Charity. In addition, you could also implement a schedule at home which mimics the school day.
5. Speak to the teacher
If your child has specific concerns about changes within the school, ask the class teacher to give your child a call to offer some reassurance and to answer any concerns they may have. This will also alert the teacher/school so they are aware of your child’s feelings, which means they will be able to address any issues if they do arise during the school day.
6. Get in touch with some school friends
Let your child reconnect with one or many school friends online to help them reduce their anxieties and get them excited to see their school friends again. If possible, arrange a face to face outdoor meeting so they can physically catch up and remind them of all the fun they will have once they do return to school and can see their friends again.
7. Breathing techniques to calm down anxiety
Breathing techniques and mindfulness meditation are some of the recommended methods to calm anxiety in both children and adults. There has been numerous studies on these methods which proves how mind-blowingly amazing they can be in helping us manage our emotions and stress. You can find a number of techniques on this fabulous post: 12 fun and easy deep breathing exercises for kids.