The covid 19 pandemic represents an unprecedented scenario in the modern age and as such it is impossible to measure accurately exactly how this has impacted on the mental health and well being of children and young people and how they will be affected going forward with the return to school. Indeed, for some of those individuals lockdown has largely felt secure and even fun, whereas for others it will have been quite the opposite. How best can we support our children/charges in their return to their formal learning setting and minimise disruption? Here are some suggestions:
- Be prepared: arm your child/charge with as much information about the new school routine and protocols as you are able, keeping it simple, so they are prepared for changes in eg/timing of the school day and drop off/collection locations. Your school will be supportive in this and should help by providing pictorial representations of classroom layouts etc, which can be particularly useful for younger children.
- Be available: Keep an open dialogue with your child/charge in terms of how they are feeling about their return to school. Check whether they are concerned or frightened about anything in particular, as well as looking forward to or feeling excited about things. Stress that a mixture of positive and negative emotions is normal and to be expected and that other children will be feeling likewise.
- Be consistent: it is likely that family routines will have altered during lockdown and some children may have been waking up later and/or going to bed later than usual. However, it will really help them with their return to school if regular sleep hygiene patterns are re-established.
- Be reassuring: Children are going to find it very confusing that during lockdown we have been instructed to stay at home, observe social distancing and now they are being asked to return to school. Explain to your child/charge how they can keep themselves safe in school, such as with regular hand washing and stress to them that their school is working hard to keep them safe also with new plans and arrangements.
- Be positive: Focus on the best aspects of school reopening, such as seeing friends again and ask your child/charge what they are looking forward to. You can model examples – I told my children that although I would miss them during the school day, I was looking forward to having a quiet swim by myself and hearing all about their days later.
- Be easy on yourself: Transitioning back into the school routine is going to take a while. Already we’ve had daily communications from our school with changes to the drop off and pick up arrangements, which as parents is confusing and stressful, plus with the added need to relay all this to our children, it can feel overwhelming. One day one child is fussing about going to school and another day it is the other one, which is emotionally draining. But we just have to do our very best to comfort, support and reassure them, without putting ourselves under pressure to ensure everything is done perfectly.
We hope those of you who are now back in school are enjoying it so far and adjusting back into the new normal happily. Take care and look after yourselves.
Good luck! Steph x