Going back to school after the enforced COVID-19 break can be a source of mixed emotions for many children and young people. Some students, who love the face-to-face interactions, just can’t wait to reconnect with friends and teachers. Others who have appreciated the break from constantly being emotionally switched on when at school may not be as happy about returning. Regardless of how your child reacts there’s bound to be a level of anxiety attached to returning to school after such a long break. The following strategies have been sourced from a sourced from Michael Gross’ book, Anxious Kids. They will definitely support your current strategies in helping your child make a smooth transition back to school.
Park your expectations
School has been a different experience for students post COVID-19. It has required you to adjust your expectations, particularly academically, so patience is definitely vital. Education is a long game, so if you are worried about your child missing out, recognise that this experience has been a blip on the educational curve. It’s worth remembering that anxiety loves company. Park your expectations for a time, so your child won’t pick up your anxieties.
Understand that their anxiety is real
An anxious child desperately wants a parent to understand that they feel anxious and apprehensive. Even if, you can’t relate to the impact that a return to school has on their state of mind and physiology, recognise that their anxiety is real. “Ah, I see you’re worried that you won’t know what to do when you go to school” is the type of response that an anxious child wants from a parent. Validating your child’s feelings will help them feel safe and secure, putting them in a good position to make a return to school. “Mum/dad know that I’m feeling nervous” is very reassuring for a child.
Worriers and anxious types in particular, like to know what’s ahead. Prepare your child as much as possible. Let young children know that an adult won’t be accompanying them past the school gate. Ask your child what they are looking forward to and check in with how they are feeling about their return. Check in regularly with how they are feeling and correct any misconceptions.
Focus on reconnection
Make reconnection the theme for your child’s return to school. He or she will have to reconnect with friends, teachers and learning, which takes time. In all likelihood, your child’s teachers will use many strategies to help your child connect with their friends, reflect on their time at home and move them back into full-time learning mode. Support these activities and reassure your child that they’ll feel comfortable very soon with their school experience.
Stay off the roundabout for a while
This period will in many ways mirror the start of the school year when your child had to adjust to new teachers, different classmates and a new year level. Adjusting to change takes a great deal of personal energy, so your child or young person may become tired, grumpy, even moody at home. Make allowances for these personal changes and make sure they have plenty of free time to unwind after school to relax and play.
Take care of yourself
In recent months parents and teachers have been doing significant emotional labour. The learning and adjustment curves have been massive, with little time to relax and take a break. Consider your own emotional resources and make your wellbeing a priority, which will make it easier for you to stay calm if your child experiences difficulties. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many difficulties, requiring us all to quickly adapt to new situations. Flexibility is a prime characteristic of resilient people, so if nothing else, getting through these times will make us all more resilient. I would like to congratulate the VRS parents on a very successful transition back. There are many students and families still adjusting. Please keep in contact with your classroom teachers as they will be the best first port of call. If there is anything you need please let one of us know.
Social Worker @ VRS