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Supporting Your Child's Mental Health As They Return To School

July 24, 2020

The Coronavirus Pandemic has caused major disruption to our daily lives and children are feeling these changes deeply. We have had to socialise virtually and give up activities that we once enjoyed, this is particularly hard, especially for children. We all know how full-of-energy kids are and being cooked up in the house all day is never a good thing! So as children across the country begin returning to school in September, we have been thinking about the impact the pandemic has had on their mental health.

When kids return to school in September, things are going to be different. Children may have to wear facemasks, they will be expected to wash their hands more frequently and they may not be in the same group as their friends. This dystopian reality may have an impact on our little ones, they may be left feeling isolated, anxious and frightened.

So, what can parents do to help?

Keep An Open Conversation Parent and Child

The return to school in September is going to be difficult, both for you and your little one. Especially if they are starting a new school. They may ask you why they have to go back or they may seem troubled when you approach the subject. Some children might even tell you that they are worried or scared.

Try to have regular conversations in the weeks leading up to the return. Ask your little one how they're feeling about the Coronavirus measures that may be in place in their school. Let them know that it is okay to be scared, that you are too, be open and honest. This will make your little one feel like they can tell you when they're feeling anxious. A child's mental health is just as important as their physical health, especially in the midst of a global pandemic, so it's important they don't feel like they are wrong to be worried.

When your little one eventually returns to school, they may find it hard within the first two weeks. Again, be open and honest with them, in the mornings on the way to school or on the way home, ask your little one how they found the day and how they dealt with the measures in place. Talking about these things regularly will help avoid your little one feeling isolated and bottling up their emotions.

Prepare Them For The Added Measures Hand Washing

Kids are not clean, it's a known fact. And that's okay. But, with the additional measures in place, try to encourage your little one to wash their hands more often for 20 seconds. Make it fun. Sing a song as you wash your hands, maybe not Happy Birthday but something different. A favourite nursery rhyme, the song of a favourite artist. Join in and make it a competition. If hand washing is a fun experience, your little one will forget why they are even doing it.

Remind your little one of the positives. They will get to see their friends again. And when they ask about social distancing, remind them of the reasons why these measures are in place. So people don't get sick, so parents and grandparents don't get sick.

Though, some kids may find it hard if they are not in the same group as their friends. If this is the case, encourage them to find other ways to socialise. Either virtually or after school with social distancing measures in place.

Be Honest About What May Happen Teacher and Student

If there was a spike in your area or a second wave throughout the country, schools may be forced to close once again. Be open and honest about this with your child. It is best that they are prepared, as this will not have as much of an affect on their mental health.

For more advice and guidance about a child's mental health and the return to school, have a look at Unicef's detailed guide.