Helping kids with return-to-school anxiety

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Health Assured team

09 March 2021

On March 8th, kids in England are expected to return to school. In Wales, the flexible return began in February. In Ireland, a phased return is under way, and in Scotland, the return begins on the 15th. 

Many children have spent a long time away from school. And, far from being a holiday, this time has been filled with strange new pressures—home learning, no social mixing, and a news cycle filled with doom and gloom. 

It’s no surprise that mental health issues among. UK children are climbing1. And, worryingly, that education in general may be slipping. But with this return to school, hopefully these issues will ease.  

It’s natural, though, for a lot of kids to feel some anxiety about the return. As mentioned, the world is somewhat different now. And many children suffer enough anxiety at the beginning of a normal school year. 

Here are some things you can do to help ease anxiety as children return to school. 

Talkestablishing good, two-way communication about a child’s feelings is vital. Ask how they’re feeling about it and whatever they tell you, accept, validate and normalise their feelings. Empathise—talk about your own worries and difficulties, both during your time at school and your time at work.  

Plan: make sure kids have something to look forward to after the day is done (and before it starts, if they’re particularly early risers.) Think up a a few interesting things to do in the evenings, mornings, and at weekends in the next term 

School should only be a part of the week, after all. And given the oddness and disruption of the academic year so far, it’s good to remind children of this.  

Routinethis ties in to the previous suggestions—a daily, weekly and monthly routine is key. Regular morning wakeup times, regular bedtimes, regular mealtimes. A lot of routine will have slipped in the last year. And that’s okay—we’ve all had a tough time. But when your children’s mental health is at stake, a proper regimen and routine is invaluable. 

Listen: allow everyone some time to air and share worries, triumphs and events from their day. Frame it as family feedback—a time where anyone can speak openly about the things that are happening, and how they’re affected by those things. 

Ask questions and lead the conversation. Some good examples would be asking about how people’s day went, what facts they learned today, how their lunch was and whether anyone said anything kind or unpleasant.  

This isn’t just a time for children to vent—you can use this time to gently explain and reinforce your own day’s events. In this way, you can reintroduce a little normality in your children’s lives after the difficulties of the past year. 

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