There’s no doubt that these last 12 months has been tumultuous for everyone – and the result of schools closing, opening and then closing again has had a big impact on children’s mental health.
The good news is the vaccine roll out is going at pace, and with the government having defined a roadmap out of lockdown, hopefully this will be the last period of home-schooling and we can all get back to some kind of normality.
With schools in England back on Monday 8th March, some children probably couldn’t wait to get back into the classroom and see their friends, but others may be worried about socialising again, having spent so much time at home.
How do I tell if my child’s feeling anxious?
Smaller children might not be able to express how they’re feeling in words, so look out for changes in their behaviour – are they quieter than normal, or noticeably clingy? They might tell you they have a tummy ache or headache. These could both be signs that they’re worried about going back to school.
With kids in secondary school, it can be easy to dismiss any off-behaviour as them being ‘moody teenagers’ but many will have concerns about how their work will be assessed this year and future prospects – whether that’s further education or entering the workplace.
What can I do to help them?
There’s lots of simple things you can do and resources to help if your children are anxious about going back to school.
Routines may have gone out of the window (quite understandably) with everything that’s been happening. Use the start of school to get back into the swing of things like mealtimes and bedtimes, which might have gone a bit wayward as a result of the pandemic.
Try to have a chat with your children about how they’re feeling about going back to school. Ask them if they’re worried about anything but also what they might be looking forward to. Do they have a favourite subject, or friends they haven’t seen for a long time? Let them know that it’s normal to have a few worries about going back to school.
Find out from the school what measurements are in place for hygiene, class sizes etc. Arm yourself with as much information as possible so if your child does have questions you can reassure them if they’re worried about the virus.
Teenagers can be hard to talk to, but they’re also pretty tech savvy. They might prefer to engage with people their own age, or look at online advice targeted at them specifically. BBC Radio 1’s Life Hacks podcast has a lockdown wellbeing special on how to deal with anxiety, and charities like Young Minds have lots of resources including blogs to help young people and parents with mental health support, including dealing with anxieties around COVID-19.
No matter what ages your children are, reassure them this won’t last forever. They might feel frustrated that they can see their friends in school but not after school socially. Recognise that some of the rules don’t seem to always make sense but that they won’t go on for much longer.
Keep up-to-date with the latest plans for education with this article from the BBC , which details such things as exam plans, testing and mask-wearing guidelines. Official guidance on education and the return to school can also be found on gov.uk.
And finally, don’t put too much pressure on yourself or them – there might be a few weeks of ups and downs before you all feel settled again. If you’re really worried about your child, please speak to your GP for professional support.