Preparing for Back to School

Getting ready to go back to school is always a challenge and this year it may feel like a bigger challenge than usual.  

Some children and young people will not have been in school since the end of March 2020, some will have been in and out sporadically while others may have been attending but experiencing classes in a very different way.  

 Some young people will have received their exam results and may be facing a very different return to education than the one they had planned.  

Whether you are a parent, carer, teacher or work with children and young people, this might feel like a really tricky time for you and the children you know. You may feel irritated by the uncertainty of return to school, teens may seem even more unreasonable than usual and younger children might be really worried about everything that is going on in the world. 

As adults, we can’t always take away children’s worries or make them feel happy, as much as we might want to. What we can do is support children and young people to manage their worries so that they are better able to handle their feelings and difficult situations. 

To support children and young people to return to school, you could try some of these techniques. You can also use these techniques yourself.  

In the days leading up to returning to school and during the first days back, you could have a routine with your child where you spend some time each day reflecting on how you feel about school, practising ways to keep calm and looking for all the great things that are going on in your lives. 

  • Allow children, young people and yourself to feel worried, frustrated and anxious. Saying “don’t worry, everything will be fine” is unlikely to stop the child or young person from feeling worried. Instead, try to acknowledge how they feel by saying something like: “Things are unusual and uncertain at the moment which can make you feel anxious. It’s OK to feel that and we can try to manage it together”. tell yourself that too. 
  • Practise some grounding techniques. Grounding is a way of reminding yourself that the past can’t be changed, the future hasn’t happened yet and that you are right here, right now. Controlling your breathing is a good way of calming yourself down and being able to feel more in control of your feelings. One grounding technique is to breathe in while counting to four, hold your breath while counting to four and breathe out to the count of eight. You and your child can do this together and they can use the technique when they are alone and feel worried or anxious. 
  • Focus on the positives. When we feel worried or anxious, we often focus only on the negative things that have happened in the past and that might happen in the future. Encouraging children and young people to remember the positives can help to reduce anxiety levels. For example, at the end of each day you could talk about or write about the good things that have happened. This could include small things (like having a really good sandwich), things you have done with others (like meeting friends or going for a walk), or things that you have done alone (like reading or doing well in a game).