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Supporting your child’s return to school

Specialist Nurse Advisers – Mental Health, Bupa
04 June 2020

This week has seen the return of some children to school, specifically children in reception, year 1 and year 6. The government is also keen to bring all primary year groups back to school before the summer holidays (though this will be kept under review).

After weeks of home schooling or juggling work demands around childcare, the move to restart the education system will be very welcome for some. If you’ve decided to send your child back to school, you’re likely to have mixed feelings about it.

Your child may also feel apprehensive about the change and might be upset if they learn that some of their friends won’t be returning. Here, we share some tip tops to support your child back to school. Bupa GP, Dr Naveen Puri, also offers some advice around general hygiene and health to reduce the risk of catching and spreading coronavirus.

a child colouring with crayons

Ways to support your child’s return to school

Your child may be excited to return to school. But they may also feel a bit unsure, especially knowing that it won’t be quite the same as before. They’ve also had over 10 weeks at home, which is longer than any school holiday and it will take some adjustment to get into a new routine once again. Here are some ways you can support your child.

Prepare your child for how school will be

Your school will have probably outlined the changes to you, explaining how they’re planning to manage social distancing, classrooms, lunchtimes and break times. Try to help your child understand, as much as possible, what their new day will look like. It will help prepare them mentally for the change.

Be open and honest

If some of your child’s friends aren’t going back, be honest with them and explain why. If your child has a question about their classroom or how it will be, try and answer it as honestly as possible. One of the most effective ways to reassure children and help them feel safe is to provide clear information.

Be aware of how you act and talk about their return to school

Children feed off their parent’s and care giver’s actions. How you talk and respond to their return to school will ultimately be their cue how to feel about it. Stay upbeat and put a positive focus on aspects when you talk about it. For example: “your class will be much smaller than before, but that’s brilliant because you’ll have lots of attention and help from your teacher.”

Ask your child how they feel

Make some time to ask your child how they feel about going back to school and try to answer any questions they might have. This could be good to do on a walk, sitting quietly in the garden or colouring together. Being able to talk about their concerns, no matter how small, will help your child stop going over them in their head.

Write a story

You could write a story to explain to your child what changes are happening at their school. Think about any new rules now in place (such as regular hand washing) and why this is a rule. Some children find it very hard to imagine situations they haven’t experienced before. By writing a story, it becomes more relatable for your child.

Ask your child what school was like

When your child goes back to school, give them time to tell you about their day and try to answer any questions they have. Perhaps they’ve heard something from another child and want to ask you if it’s true. Maybe they’re anxious about an aspect of their new day. Do your best to be open and honest in answering questions and reassure them how you can about any worries they have. If you’re concerned, talk to your child’s teacher or contact the head teacher.

Hygiene and staying healthy at school

Your child’s school will have strict guidance around cleaning surfaces, hand washing and other ways to minimise risk of infection. You may well have received some information about the ways they’re doing this and what support they expect from parents.

Here are some tips from a Bupa GP, Dr Naveen Puri, on hygiene and staying well during the transition back to school.

  • Wash your hands regularly. Your child’s school will make sure all pupils and teachers regularly wash their hands throughout the day. It’s also a good idea to wash your child’s hands thoroughly as soon as they are home from school, before they’ve had a snack.
  • Wash clothes daily. Some children may go back to school in uniform, others may be able to wear their own clothes. Regardless, your child should wear a clean change of clothes every day. Clothing can sometimes harbour viruses, picked up from surfaces or droplets in the air, and daily washing helps reduce the risk of spreading infection.
  • Be aware of coronavirus symptoms. If your child has a temperature, develops a new, continuous cough or loses their sense of smell or taste, do not send them to school. You should request a test. If your child tests positive for coronavirus, your whole household should follow government guidelines and self-isolate for 14 days. Your child’s school can then put steps in place to reduce the spread of further infection. If you child’s test is negative, they can return to school.
  • Remind your child of social distancing rules. It will be incredibly hard for children and teachers to maintain social distancing rules all the time. Especially in younger class settings. But it’s still important to talk to your child about social distancing. Explain why there might be markings on the floor and why they can’t mix with other groups (bubbles) at school. You could show your child what two metres looks like at home to help them socially distance as best they can when they’re at school.
Harriet Finlayson and Danielle Panton
Specialist Nurse Advisers – Mental Health, Bupa

    • Actions for education and childcare settings to prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020. Department of Education., updated 12 May 2020
    • Guidance for parents and carers on supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Public Health England., published 21 April 2020
    • Coronavirus (COVID-19): implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings. Department of Education., updated 12 May 2020

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