With schools opening and closing in line with COVID-19 restrictions and local lockdowns, some children may be finding school difficult. They may feel anxious or reluctant about going to school in person, mixed with other feelings such as excitement if they have had time away. Others may have concerns about ‘virtual’ learning from home, such as falling behind in their work, or losing touch with their friends. Parents may also have a range of feelings about children’s schooling, such as concern or relief if they are attending school, and the stress of juggling responsibilities if they are schooling at home.
If your child is concerned about the safety of being at school, help them prepare to maintain their own safety. They may need reminders about washing their hands, wearing a mask or maintaining physical distancing. Explain that if everyone does it, even if it’s uncomfortable, it keeps everyone safe. They may also need help to decide how best to respond to peer pressure not to do these things, even practice about what they could say. read more The important thing is for children to be aware of what they can do to protect themselves and others from the spread of the virus, and what to do if they have any symptoms If they are schooling at home, help them set up a study space and manage their daily routine with periods of study and regular breaks. read less
Deal with any concerns you may have about your child’s schooling by taking actions that give you a better sense of personal control. Stay in contact with your child’s school so you feel connected and know what is going on. Stress management skills such as mindfulness and/or deep breathing can also help reduce stress. read more If you focus on your own wellbeing (e.g. exercise daily, eat well, get enough sleep, avoid using alcohol or drugs to lessen stress), you can stay healthy and be available for your child. read less
Children need to be able to talk to their parents about their concerns and have their questions answered. This is especially true if your child is worried about being at school or doing their schoolwork. read more Let them know you are always there for them and try to make yourself available when they want to talk. If it’s not possible right then (e.g. if you are working), make a time to talk as soon as you can. read less
When your child wants to talk, stop what you are doing and listen carefully. Avoid telling your child how they should feel, such as That’s silly. You shouldn’t be scared about that. Let them know it is OK to be worried. Talking or drawing can help children get in touch with their feelings. Ask them about how they are feeling to help them figure out what they are anxious about.
Find out what your child knows about the issue before answering their questions. Keep answers simple and honest. Get information from trusted sources like your child’s school or official health websites rather than social media.
In an uncertain situation, maintaining routines is helpful in providing a sense of predictability. Involve your child in working out their school routine — even if this involves returning to an old, pre-lockdown routine. For example, your child might write out a daily timetable that includes the time they need to wake up to get ready for school, and a time for homework. Or they might write a list of the things they need to do in the morning to get ready for school.
Be on the lookout for any behaviour that reflects optimism or preparations for going back to school or managing schooling from home. Use plenty of praise and positive attention to encourage the behaviours you like and want to see repeated. Let them know you are pleased by telling them what they have just done — I know you’re a bit nervous about going to school and I really admire the way you’re focusing on the good things like seeing your friends. That’s a great attitude! or I really like the way you’re managing your study space at home. You’re keeping everything really well organised.
The COVID-19 crisis has created uncertainty for everyone. Parents need to find a way to accept uncertainty and show this through their actions and words. It’s OK to say, I don’t know. Let’s find out what we can. Swapping between learning from home and returning to school in person represents more uncertainty. You can encourage your child to check in with their teachers about managing their workload and preparing for exams if they are worried about falling behind. When schools are open, no one can know whether they may perhaps need to close again for a short or longer time. Big changes and uncertainty in children’s lives can be hard, but they are also an opportunity for developing emotional resilience. This will be useful in the future as children navigate the inevitable ups and downs of life.
Children will feel happier and more confident if they feel supported in their relationships. Make sure you keep up your use of phones, online communication (e.g. video conferencing), and social media to keep in touch with family, friends, and neighbours. It is particularly important that children feel like they are connected to their friends and peers.
Your child may have enjoyed having so much time with their family during lockdown and may be worried this will stop with the busy return to school commitments. Try to carry on the positive things that happened during lockdown, like making sure you have time to talk play and do activities together, like going for walks, working on projects and cooking as a family. We can all take some positives out of this uncertain and challenging time.