It’s only a couple of weeks into the summer holidays but primary school children are already anxious about returning to school in September.
That’s according to the kids themselves who were asked about the impact Covid-19 has had on them.
They say they’ve felt lonely, missed hugging their friends and felt sad about missing school – but there’s real trepidation about going back into the classroom.
The survey by Start-Rite Shoes, reveals the effect of lockdown on the nation’s children and warns of the impact on their mental health.
A third of children aged 6-11 (32%) say they’re nervous about returning to school and one in ten admits to being scared.
Dr Julie Smith, Clinical Psychologist and expert in mental health is working with Start-Rite to create a seven-point action planto help parents enable a calm transition back to school in September and spot behaviours that might show their child is anxious, but not sharing their concerns.
Over a third (37%) of children do not like social distancing. The younger children, aged 6 to 8, are most worried about Covid-19 when returning to school (41%) while the older children aged 9 to 11 are worried about managing to keep a safe distance from friends when they return (43%).
86% of children most missed their friends, while over a third (37%) missed their teacher. On the whole, more children missed their teacher, than clubs and sport.
The pivotal role of technology
Technology has proved to be a lifeline with over half (56 per cent) saying they most enjoyed playing on a phone, computer, games console or tablet during the lockdown. And, this is what 29 per cent of children will miss the most when returning in September.
1.Make time. Set aside just ten minutes each day to talk with your child one to one and listen to anything your child may want to share. Ask open questions, such as “What do you think about…” and “how do you feel about…” Make sure this is a quiet time when your child knows they have your undivided attention. Even if your child does not talk about their worries, give them this special time with you to talk about anything they choose.
2.Validate their feelings. If your child does express worries and anxiety about school, validate that by letting them know that you are listening and not attempting to correct or dismiss how they feel. This communicates to the child that this is a safe space to talk and express themselves and that their feelings matter to you.
3.Normalise. Reflect that many children will be feeling this way and that it is understandable and normal. Big changes can trigger big feelings. That is ok.
4. The feeling is temporary. New things often feel scary at first. Let your child know that the anxious feeling does calm over time, once they get back into a routine.
5. Help them find a focus. If your child is anxious on that first day, guide them to focus on what they need to do. For example, say hi to your friends, hand up your bag, find a seat.
6.Reassurance. Several children may start to worry about contamination. As parents, we can reassure them that their only job is to follow the guidelines that the teacher sets out. It is the job of the grown-ups to concern themselves with the virus. The children only need to focus on following the rules and having fun being kids.
7. Be prepared. The first day back can provoke anxiety for many children. That is normal, but something we can do as parents to ease that process is prepared. School mornings can be rushed and stressful for parents and children. For a child who is worried about school, this can increase