Supporting Your Child’s Return to School Post-Lockdown
After homeschooling for a considerable amount of time, it’s only natural that there may be some apprehension about going back to school. For this post, Dr. Oliver Sindall, a clinical psychologist specialising in child and adolescent mental health, discusses why the return to school is important for children’s social development and mental health as well as sharing his top tips for a smooth transition.
“The education system gives much more to our children than just the opportunity to learn,” he says. “It also promotes the development of a child’s social, emotional and mental health needs.”
“The school environment provides a place for children to play and interact with their friends in ways that cannot be replicated online or at home. Interacting with friends face-to-face and enjoying creative play in a way that is structured yet stimulating can improve ‘sensory integration’ which is a crucial part of a child’s social, emotional and academic development.”
“Teachers also play a vital role in establishing feelings of safety. By providing boundaries, rules, and expectations, they ensure that children know what to expect day-to-day. This provides a sense of security and safety that is so important for a child to develop and learn – especially following the uncertainty and anxiety that many children have felt during the pandemic.”
Top tips for a smooth back to school transition
1) Ask yourself ‘who is more nervous?’
As a parent, it is extremely important to ask yourself who is most anxious about the return to school. When schools went back in September 2020, many parents began to realise that it was actually their own worries occupying their minds, not their child’s.
The danger here is that anxiety is very easy for kids to absorb. They may start to think “if mum and/or dad are really worried, then returning to school must be ‘unsafe’”. Take some time for yourself and ask for help if you need it. This will help you to manage your own feelings, increasing your ability to notice how your child is coping.
2) Talk it out
Parents play a vital role in normalising the transition back to school for students. They can help their children to be open if this is challenging for them, or if it is affecting their overall emotional wellbeing. No matter how your child feels, let them know that it is completely normal to feel a mixture of emotions and that everyone will be having a similar experience.
3) Get them excited about going back to school
While some kids may be really looking forward to going back to school, others will be naturally be feeling a bit glum about saying goodbye to a more relaxed school routine. Inviting them to pick out their own backpack and school accessories may just help to shift their mindset about returning to normality. Madlug bags come in a range of bold colours and styles including school bags, kids backpacks, and classic backpacks. Want to make choosing even more fun? Let them design their own custom-made Madlug.
4) Ease back into a routine
Put simply, anxiety is a fear of the unknown. It can therefore be helpful to prepare children for any changes that have been made to the timings of their day, the layout of their classroom, and other impacts of COVID-19. If your child is not back at school already, you may even want to go through a practice run driving them to the gate. This may seem silly, but it will help them to re-connect with the ‘school run’ memory and it may trigger any questions or concerns they have before going back.
If your children are already at school, continue to re-establish a routine and structure to help ease back into school life. This might include things like getting back into the morning routine, structuring what your children do when they get home, and reintroducing a sensible start to the bedtime routine.
5) Be patient and kind to yourselves
It is important for parents to be open-minded about any challenging behaviour or emotional difficulties displayed by any student over the next few months. For example, instead of seeing a drop in grades (or motivation) as a lack of discipline or laziness, consider how this might relate to their emotional wellbeing and try your best to support, reassure and comfort them. It’s important not to put pressure on yourself as a parent either. Remember, everybody is going to need time to adjust.
Self-care for parents
There’s no denying that the back to school transition can be as hard for parents as it is for children. With this in mind, here are a few ways parents can better relax and ease their stress during this difficult period.
- Practice mindfulness — when we’re feeling stressed, it’s easy to spend too much time replaying something in your mind that happened yesterday or worrying about what might happen tomorrow. Experimenting with a daily guided meditation or keeping a gratitude journal are just some of the ways we can become more present in our daily lives.
- Spend time in nature — you may know that spending time in nature is proven to boost our psychological wellbeing. Next time you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take a breather by going for a walk in your nearest green space (even if that’s your garden!)
- Engage your senses — nothing says calm like soaking in a warm bubble bath with a candle and relaxing music but sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day. When you’re strapped for time, something as simple as pouring a mug of herbal tea and people watching for a minute or two can be the key to relaxation when life gets busy.
- Carve out time to be alone — if you find yourself spending a little longer in the bathroom than is necessary when the kids are full of energy, you’re not alone. Solitude is important to allow us to unwind, so while your hands are free, give yourself permission to charge your batteries.
For more information and advice on supporting your child and preparing them for their return to school, you may find the following articles useful:
- Tips for working with your child’s school
- How to help your child with anxiety
- The challenges facing schools and pupils
- Ideas to help children learn and thrive
Written By Emma Gibbins