05 March 2021

Photograph: Two schools girls running up some steps to school
Photo by Mary Taylor from Pexels

As schools re-open on 8 March, children and parents (and teachers) will have mixed feelings. Some children will be super excited about meeting their friends, some nervous, some will have regressed and feel shy and unsure, or be unconfident about relationships in their friendship circles. There will be new processes (like self-testing) and new rules about break times and contact with others. Many parents will have got used to their children being at home and, although signs of normal life returning are welcome, it is a period of adjustment for parents too. It is a daunting time for everyone but schools have been planning for this and will do all they can to ensure the return of pupils is as stressfree as possible.

So how can you prepare your child/children emotionally for returning to school? The advice can vary depending on the age of the child.  The Mental Health Foundation (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/) has some tips for parents and guardians:

Start talking
Your child might have worries about returning to school. You can explore these and help them think of ways to manage them.

Sleep routine
Help your child return to their normal sleep routine in the weeks before school starts again.

Talk about school
Start to talk through the daily routine that they were once so familiar with. It doesn’t have to start as a conversation about worries, but these might arise as you talk.

Coping strategies
Model coping strategies you use when feeling stressed such as reconnecting with friends before returning, doing regular exercise or using breathing techniques. If it applies, you could share your own worries and feelings about returning to work and ways you are managing these feelings. Ask you child if they are worried about any aspect and follow it up with - what could you do if that happens - and help them to work it through and be prepared.

Make yourself available as much as possible
Children may want to come and “debrief” but it maybe not when you expec it. Create space for talking in different ways, such as going on a walk together or baking together – there may be less pressure in these circumstances than when sitting face-to-face.

Look at the positives
As schools reopen, other things will too. It might be helpful to talk about things the child is looking forward to, like their favourite shop reopening, seeing friends in the park or getting ice cream from their favourite café.

Practical Preparation

Plan clothing for first few days, make sure is clean and still fits!

Talk through with your child what they need to bring in their bag on their first day.

Think together about what drink and snack they want to bring, and what lunch they would like.

Check footwear still fits and is waterproof

Read information sent by the school to help your child/children prepare for what to expect. Explain about masks, keeping their distance from others, etc.

Don't assume older children are 'cool' with the changes. Set aside time to work through their concerns and together look at contingencies to help them to feel calm and on top.