Returning back to school-Tips for Parents

Since Covid-19 and the lockdown in March, we have all had to do things a little bit differently.

There have been many challenges for some families since going into lockdown where parents have had to manage with homeschooling, working from home, and carers responsibilities, to name a few. We have been plunged into a global pandemic where we have had to be adaptable in a time of threat. This has brought about a lot of fear and uncertainty.

Parents that I have spoken to have had to navigate their own feelings whilst remaining a figure of stability for their family. This is a hard thing to balance, and be reassured that you have most probably done the best job that you can given these unprecedented circumstances.

Now that children are returning back to school and we are trying to return to a resemblance of a ‘normal’ routine, this can trigger further doubts and questions. It can understandably be hard for parents and children to feel ready and to not have a slight sense of apprehension and fear. It’s very hard to undo all the firm strong messages that we have been hearing over the past 5 months about reducing the spread of Covid-19.

Following our blog with tips for children, we thought it was really important to think of you as parents too and to suggest some tips on navigating through the transition on returning to school.

1) Talk openly about starting school

• Starting a new school term or transitioning to a new school can feel a bit worrying for some children. Given the pandemic there are additional nerves about the uncertainties of what to expect on their return.

• Keeping the channels of communication open to allow your child to speak about their feelings can be helpful.

• Find the right time to speak to them, so that they feel relaxed and in a safe environment. There are creative ways in which you could communicate e.g. through play or drawing rather than sitting down and having a formal conversation. These approaches can feel less pressured and provide a fluid way though other mediums to talk and express what is on the child’s mind. YoungMinds have a variety of ideas

• Validate your child’s feelings. This can help them to feel heard, and to safe and secure. For example you can say: It can be a bit worrying to not know what will happen at school, but it’s ok to feel that. What else have you been thinking about? Lets think of these worries together. You’ve done really well in telling me how you’re feeling.

• It can also help to build your child’s resilience and confidence about going to school, by noting with them the things that they do well. Asking questions: ‘What are you most proud of?’ ‘What do you enjoy doing?’ ‘what are you most looking forward to?’

2) Get in contact with friends

• Since lockdown we have all been interacting through virtual platforms, and it might feel a bit strange for children to see their friends again face to face.

• Arranging playdates/meetups before returning back to school can be helpful to increase social interaction, and to help reduce anticipatory anxiety.

• Remember to follow the latest government guidelines when meeting with others.

3) Go out again

• Understandably throughout this time we have all as a nation been told to ‘stay home’ ‘keep a distance’ and psychologically it’s very hard for us as adults to slowly relax those rules. For children it could feel even harder as the physical feelings of anxiety may feel quiet overwhelming and as a result we might see children avoiding certain activities and not wanting to return to school, as home has been the safest place for them.

• Before going into school, try to go out with your child little by little everyday, and gradually build this up until they feel comfortable in those situations.

• For example, you can start small by going for a quiet walk with family, then building up to going for a walk in the park.

4) Get back to your sleep pattern

• Having a good nights sleep can help us have energy and help our concentration for the next day. Since being out of school some of us may be going to bed and getting up later.

• Have a think back to what the bedtime routine was when your child was at school. For your child to be ready for the school weeks ahead, it is important for them to gradually wake up earlier in the morning and go to bed earlier. Ideally as close to the time that you normally would for school.

• Together with your child talk about the change in sleep routine, and why that would be helpful. Acknowledge that it might be tricky to get back to that routine, but it is something that you will help them with.

• Try setting an alarm in the morning to wake up a bit earlier than what you have been. Try your best to wake up and get ready for the day ahead. Often it can be helpful to have something planned to look forward to.

• Start having a wind down routine before going to bed. For example if your child’s bedtime is at 9pm, then at around 8.30pm, start getting ready to go bed. This can help your child’s brain get into the zone of resting. There is lots of research which explains that not using devices (such as phones, tablets, tv), before bed can help with the mind relaxing. If it’s hard to fall asleep, trying restful activities that can help with relaxing the mind, such as reading, listening to music, and relaxation exercises. Apps such as Headspace, Calm, Stop breathe and think to name a few are helpful.

• It might feel a bit tricky at first to do, and your child might want to sleep in or stay up late. Discuss a backup plan with your child before shifting the sleep routine, so they have a say in how they would like to work together on sleep.

• You might find it helpful to have a read of some additional advice here:

It may take some time for your child to reintegrate back into school. You might notice that when your child returns from school that they are more tired than usual. This will be because they are back in busy and stimulating environments which in turn stimulates all the senses. Ensure that your child has some downtime if they need it when they return.

Check in on how they are feeling and coping with the return. As parents this has most probably been a tough journey for you also, working hard, and simultaneously experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions too. Continuing to sit with uncertainty about the future can feel overwhelming and draining. Wherever possible, make sure that you prioritise yourself too and attend to your physical, emotional and social needs. If you invest in nurturing yourself and filling up your emotional cup, it can be easier to continue to emotionally support your child through this next transition.

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