We can be starting to think about supporting children’s return to school. Returning to school is important for children to have social interactions and in-person learning for emotional wellbeing and development. However, children can have mixed feelings about returning to school. They can feel excited, overwhelmed, scared, anxious or reluctant to go back. Depending on the age and stage of development of the children, every situation varies. This blog aims to provide tips for parents and carers of children on how to support children and encourage talks about returning to school.
Show your children that you are enthusiastic about the idea of going back to school. Be confident that going back will be a positive and exciting experience for children. This shows your child that you are not worried and that they will have fun getting back into school. Supporting children’s return to school in a positive way is the most effective strategy to ease nerves.
Talk and listen to your child’s feelings. Listen to them and reassure them that the feelings of worry or being scared is normal. Children can have a mixture of feelings and may also be excited to go back as well as stressed or scared. Talk to them and create excitement about activities or things they missed out on while remote learning. For example, ‘You can see your favourite teacher again’, ‘It’s okay your friends are excited, but you’re scared’, and ‘Think of all the time you can now spend with your friends’.
If your child is afraid to return to school because they are fearful of catching COVID, find out what is it specifically that they are afraid of. Then, you can address their fears with information. For example, if a child is fearful that they are going to get really sick, have to go to hospital or worse that they could die, letting them know that The World Health Organisation reports that for most children, COVID is a mild illness, much like a cold would be helpful to reduce their anxiety and fear (World Health Organization, 2021).
Children can feel scared with things not being in their control and not being able to do what they wanted to do during isolation. Giving your child some control can help such as asking what they would like for lunch or letting them choose what to do after school.
A transition like returning to school can be different for each child. Some will want to bounce back into routine whereas some with take longer to adjust. We need to remember that they are easing into it the same as we are. We need to allow them time to relax, and if they are still struggling look at strategies like setting up playdates etc.
If your children are experiencing prolonged periods of anxiety or behavioural issues, you can always seek help. Psychologists are highly trained and skilled professionals in providing effective interventions for a range of health concerns, including anxiety.
Above all, giving your children plenty of love and support at home can help them feel confident at school.
Signs children could be struggling include:
If you notice any of these signs and feel worries it is important that you get assistance as soon as possible. The issues may be larger than just supporting children’s return to school.
Talking to your child’s teacher can give an idea if they have noticed any changes in your child’s emotions at school. Children aged 5 years and over can call Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.
If your child is experiencing signs of struggle for two weeks or more, consulting with a child psychologist may be of help. If you wish to consult with a CBT Professionals psychologist, please download our referral form here and take it with you to your GP appointment for preparation of a referral.
Disclaimer: Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only and is not intended to replace advise from your doctor or registered health professional. Readers are urged to consult their registered practitioner for diagnosis and treatment for their medical concerns.
Raising Children. (2022). Returning to school after COVID19 lockdowns: children. Raisingchildren.net.au. https://raisingchildren.net.au/guides/coronavirus-covid-19-guide/returning-to-school-after-covid-19-lockdowns-children
Relationships Australia (2022). How to support your kids going back to school post-lockdown. Relationships Australia NSW. https://www.relationshipsnsw.org.au/getting-back-to-the-new-normal-school/