Many children across the UK will be going back to school in the next week or so, having had more than 5 months at home during the COVID-19 lockdown period.
Going back to school can be both an exciting and nerve wracking time for pupils, parents and teachers, even after just a 6 week break, so it’s no surprise that so many people are feeling stressed about going back to school after such a long time off.
Children’s experiences of lockdown will have varied greatly; some may see school as a safe place away from problems at home, others may be really anxious about the change of routine.
Regardless of your child’s age or their feelings towards going back to school, it is going to be a big change, and these are some of the things you can be doing to ease the transition back to school.
Try to keep as calm as possible. Children are like sponges and, without realising, can mimic the behaviours of their parents and families. If you show signs of stress and panic when discussing going back to school or when doing the school run, it’s more likely that your child will feel stressed and panicked, too.
Make Sure Your Child Understands Social Distancing
The idea of social distancing guidelines and PPE can be quite unsettling for children (and let’s face it, adults too), so make sure that your children know what to expect from their school, as well as what is going to be expected of them.
Update the School on Important Information
If there is information that the school needs to know about, such as your child experiencing a bereavement during lockdown, it’s best to update them as soon as possible.
Your child’s teacher knowing about relevant personal struggles will allow them to keep an eye out for signs of distress, grief and upset.
Start (and Keep to) a Routine
Keeping the routine the same at home as much as possible can really aid a steady transition back into school life.
Consistency is key with children, so whether that’s having pancakes for breakfast on a Friday morning and doing homework every evening at 6 pm, or any other fixed routine or tradition, try to stick to it as much as possible.
The same goes for sleeping routines. If your child has slipped out of their usual sleep routine during the lockdown period, that’s completely understandable and you’re certainly not alone! However, try to get them back into their usual sleep routine before they go back to school so that they get a good night of rest.
Find Coping Mechanisms
If your child is prone to becoming anxious at school, or angry or overwhelmed, try finding some self-soothing coping mechanisms that they can do under the radar in the classroom.
Gently pressing the thumb on our right hand into the centre of the palm of our left and maintaining the pressure can have a noticeable calming effect. Another technique is to teach your child to breathe into their abdomen, thinking of it as filling a balloon. Hold it for afew seconds, slowly release, and repeat.
These are both soothing techniques that can go undetected in the classroom and playground, but every person is different, so take some time to do some research with your child to find out what works for them.
These are just a handful of things that you can do to help your child settle back to school. If you’ve noticed that your child is showing signs of mental health difficulties, such as low mood or anxiety, The Butterfly and Phoenix Project may be able to help.
To find out more about The Butterfly and Phoenix Project or to make a referral, visit the website.