Covid-19 and The Return to Schools

Well what a whirlwind the last few months have been.  We’ve all be taken by surprise and our lives turned upside down.  Some things are better, some things are really different.


Talk is now ongoing about children returning to school….


I did a poll yesterday across our social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) and the results didn’t really surprise me!


67%    Wouldn’t be sending their child back anytime soon

29%    Would be sending their child back when schools reopen

2%      Already have their child in school

2%      Home school


Some did say that they may consider sending their child/ren back,

if the school governing body could reassure them about measures

that would be put into place.


I can see both sides of the story.


For those that already have children in school or are intending to send them when schools reopen, I can understand.  Some parents have to work.  Some children do so much better in the routine and predictability that school brings and need to be back asap as are struggling at home.


For those delaying sending them back, I also understand.  The risks are still unknown.  The set up that some schools have proposed around social distancing don’t seem the right place for their child and isn’t “school as they know it”.


But whenever your child goes back, it’s going to be strange (I imagine some social distancing even in September).  Getting back into routines: getting up early, socialising (no matter how much they like it), schoolwork.


I can see a lot of children who will struggle.  Many children who have a trauma history really struggle in school.  Some have actually done so much better as they’re home with family and no school stresses.  The transition back is going to be a hard one.  For some other children who have no previous history of difficulty, there could still be a high level of anxiety.  They’ve faced uncertain times, not seeing loved ones, out of routines, the world has been turned upside down.  And so even though school may not have been a difficult thing for them, they could still struggle to adjust to returning.

So how can we prepare our children?


I think routine and preparation, even before it’s time for your child to return to school is key.


Just as you may at the end of the summer holidays start putting routines into place the last week or so in preparation for returning to school, the same principles should apply now.  Trying to get up at normal times, lunch at school lunch time, bedtime the same as school time.  Maybe your daily walk could be up to the school and back.


Start talking about school, the routines, what are they looking forward to, who have they missed, what the differences might be in routine due to social distancing, how they can keep their self-safe with good hygiene principles.


Try and wonder out loud how they might be feeling, what worries they have, and have empathy for their feelings they may share, their worries may be quite different to what you imagine or could think of.


Think together about some positives of the lockdown and perhaps times ahead.


Be prepared for some big emotions or your child may shut down.  Try and take a deep breath when they present with challenging or difficult behaviour and think about what may be behind it in the run up to returning to school.


Recognise that some children may regress a little during this time (or a lot!).  You may see behaviours you haven’t seen for a while or may see new ones.  They may be more attachment seeking – wanting more of your time, attention, comfort.  They may ask for this in the “wrong” way.  Try and recognise that they may be telling you they need more of you, even when it seems like the opposite!


And most importantly, look after and prepare yourself.  How is the change in your child’s behaviour and routine going to impact on you?  How can you prepare and get ready before you start your child’s preparation?  What routines do you need to get in to manage this?  I know many of our routines have been turned upside down, never mind our child’s.  We may have to go back to basics of earlier bedtimes and earlier mornings ourselves.  And what can you think of that will help you stay calm and find support for yourself?  Do you have friends or family you can reach out to, even if it’s just to offload?  Plan some “you” time, even if it’s just a quiet bubble bath in the evening.  The old saying goes, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself so that you can put the oxygen mask on your child.


I will write another piece about the next step of actual transition to school soon.


In the meantime, hold on.  Deep breaths.  This is just for a short time.  Things will get better.


Take care




Fiona Sheikh

Director/Therapeutic Attachment Specialist/Trainer


Facebook Live Event With Kinship Carers UK on Covid-19 and anxiety in children

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