Returning to School Following Coronavirus (Covid-19)
Across the UK, Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions are gradually being lifted. Schools are beginning to welcome back children that they have not seen face to face since before Christmas 2020.
But right now, things are still not back to normal. Schools still have so much to think about and while many are operating a phased return, social distancing measures are still in place and will continue for quite some time for everyone. Some teaching staff may be shielding, self-isolating or have other responsibilities so some schools may not be operating with a full team.
This might mean groups of children find themselves working with different teachers, but whatever the situation, it is important to ensure that everyone, children, teaching staff and parents, are kept safe and feels supported.
We must remember that for some children, returning to school at this time is not an option. Remote learning will still be in place for children unable to attend school in person as, for example, they may need to self-isolate.
Children might have different feelings about returning to school. Some might be anxious for a range of reasons. They may worry they have fallen behind with their work and will struggle to catch up while others may be excited and are looking forward to seeing their friends and simply being back in a school setting.
For those children who have previously experienced bullying at school, they may be worried about seeing their peers again. Although some children have experienced online bullying or problems with peer relationships while they were learning at home, going back to school, and having to face those who are displaying bullying behaviour towards you can cause anxiety, fear, worry and much more.
These fears can manifest in several ways and some signs to look out for are:
- Are they trying to get out of going to school? Using varying techniques perhaps, but with the end result being the same – that they remain at home.
- Is their mood noticeably different? More anxious, more angry, more frustrated? Quieter, more introverted, or nervous? Anxiety can show itself in varying ways.
- Physical signs such as being unable to sleep, bed wetting, or a change in eating habits can all be signs of anxiety or worry.
- Are they using their phone more? Sometimes this can also be a sign of online bullying.
- A gut feeling that you know something is not right. Parents often have a sixth sense for this sort of thing. If you feel something is not right, then trust that feeling.
The Impact of Coronavirus (Covid-19)
Everyone will have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in different ways and for many, the impact will be felt for a long time.
Although, since March 2020, children and families have been told to stay at home, some children may have found it difficult to do this. Some children may have parents who have lost their job, and others may have experienced a bereavement. There will also be children who have been unable to access the regular support they usually receive, such as, counselling, or mental health services.
The impact of Coronavirus has caused negative, emotional reactions for many families, including;
- A sense of shock and chaos
- Gradual adjustment to the reality
- Fears and concerns for self and family members
Families are concerned about health concerns regarding themselves and their loved ones, employment concerns, problems caused by being together at home and difficulties with working from home and home-schooling.
While social distancing may make people feel safer, it can also increase their feelings of isolation, stress and frustration and cause difficulties in many life situations.
It is important we make time to talk to children about the changes they are experiencing. Ask them how they feel and if there is anything in particular that is worrying them about returning to or being back at school.
- Talk to your child about how they are feelingabout going back to school or anything else that may be bothering them. Let them know you are their safe place and that all emotions are acceptable. Perhaps consider practicing some positive affirmations with them about what they like about themselves to repeat daily to build confidence. A great exercise for you both could be to sit together and discuss what your child thinks their strengths are.
- Provide your child with as much information about their new routine and school day as you can. This will help them to prepare for any changes that may have been to their day: different start and finish times, the layout of their classroom, their peer groups and playtimes, maybe different teaching staff. It can sometimes be helpful for children to visualise these changes – so a great activity would be to sit with your child and ‘draw’ these changes and help them understand what is happening.
- Reassure your child. During the lockdown we have been told to stay at home, remain socially distant from others and wash our hands regularly. Talk with your child about ways they can stay safe at school, such as washing their hands before and after eating, and reassure them that the school are doing everything they can to keep them safe.
- Re-establish a routine to help ease into school life. During lockdown, the routine of many families may have changed. Children may have been waking up later or going to bed later. To help them get ready for school, as they get closer to their return date, gradually ease them back into their usual morning and bedtime routines.
- Don’t put pressure on yourself. Transitioning back into school may take some time and lots of children will experience ups and downs. As you support, reassure and comfort them, try not to put pressure on yourself to make sure their homework is done, or they settle into a new routine straightaway.
- Think ahead. Although you may reflect on what has happened during the past few weeks, it is important to help children develop hope and a sense of excitement for the future. It can be hard to feel positive at a time like this, but identifying the things that they, and you as a family, can look forward to, will help them to realise that the current situation will not last forever, and any feelings of anxiety will change.
- Don’t be afraid to seek support. Transitioning back to school after being in lockdown is not easy. You may find that your child struggles to get back into school or experiences difficulties while they are at school. If your child is finding it hard to open up and speak with you, consider how their school may be able to help. Is there someone there they like and trust – someone they might talk to? If they would prefer, they can always speak with a BulliesOut e-Mentor. Our team of dedicated, trained, empathetic Mentors are available to communicate by email with children, young people, and adults. If you are concerned about your child’s mental health and you think they need professional support, speak to the school and your GP about the best next step.
- Speak with the school. If there have been any previous issues with bullying behaviour, speak to the school direct in the first weeks back. A lot has changed over the last few months and to remind staff of your concerns can only assist them in helping to manage the situation. Equally a chat may also allay any fears you may have.
- Encourage journaling. This can help them to record their feelings and concerns. If bullying behaviour is the root cause, then having a written record will prove invaluable in dealing with any issues.
- Limit screen time. Perhaps look at a designated time to turn phones off to ensure that at night-time any issues of online bullying cannot invade their safe space.
This has been a challenging time; the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has affected the lives of everyone, and it continues to do so. While getting back to school may signal the start of a new year, the legacy of the previous year cannot be overlooked.
We have lots of information on our website to help support you and your child. Although the pandemic has made it difficult for us to work face to face with people, we are still here, delivering virtual sessions, providing downloadable resources and of course, our wonderful e-Mentors are always available to offer support and guidance.