Supporting your child’s return to school

An image of Harriet and Danielle
Specialist Nurse Advisers – Mental Health, Bupa
17 March 2021
Next review due March 2024

Now that children are back to school, you may be wondering how you can help them adjust after being away for a while. Here, we share some top tips to help you support your child.

Bupa’s Dr Samantha Wild and Dr Luke Powles also offer some advice around general hygiene and how to reduce the risk of catching and spreading coronavirus.

Ways to support your child’s return to school

Your child might have mixed feelings about being back in the classroom. They may be excited to get to see their friends again, but they might be nervous too. They may also be apprehensive because of coronavirus still being around. They may feel unsure, knowing it won’t be quite the same, with social distancing rules in place and perhaps a different daily routine.

Here we focus on ways to support primary-school-aged children.

Prepare your child for how school will be

Your school will have probably outlined any 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 mentally prepare them for any changes.

Be open and honest

If your child has a question about how their classroom will be set up, what will be different at school or about coronavirus itself, 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 on how to feel about it. Stay upbeat and focus on the positive aspects when you talk about it.

Ask your child how they feel

Make some time to ask your child how they feel about being back at 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 or tell a story

You could write or tell a story, or draw a picture, to explain to your child what changes are happening at their school. Think about any new rules (such as regular hand washing or social distancing) and explain why they are in place. 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

Give your child 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 as best 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 the risk of infection. You may have received some information about the ways they’re doing this and what support they expect from parents and care givers.

Dr Luke Powles, Clinical Director, Bupa Health Clinics, explains the risk of coronavirus to children: “Evidence shows that children have a very low risk of becoming severely ill from coronavirus. If they do get coronavirus, most either have no symptoms at all or a very mild illness. However, coronavirus still remains in the community, so we all need to play our part in reducing the spread of the virus.”

Dr Samantha Wild, Bupa GP, shares her top tips on hygiene and staying well at 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.
  • Catch it, bin it, kill it! Explain to your child that coughs and sneezes should be ‘caught’ in a tissue, when possible, and put straight into a bin. This helps reduce the spread of viruses in general.
  • 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 coronavirus test. If your child tests positive for coronavirus, your whole household should follow government guidelines. You need to self-isolate from the moment symptoms started and the next 10 full 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 classes at playtime, for example. 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, and out and about generally.

Children at secondary school or college

Children and young people at secondary school and college have slightly different guidance about coronavirus tests and face coverings. They are offered testing twice a week. This is to test people who don’t have symptoms using a lateral flow test. This is a swab test that gives results within 30 minutes. Testing is voluntary but strongly encouraged to help stop the virus spreading.

Children at secondary school and college are also now wearing face coverings (unless they are exempt). If your child has any concerns about face mask anxiety, encourage them to talk to you.

An image of Harriet and Danielle
Harriet Finlayson and Danielle Panton
Specialist Nurse Advisers – Mental Health, Bupa

    • What parents need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges during COVID-19. Department for Education., updated 24 February 2021
    • 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., updated 21 February 2021
    • Coronavirus (COVID-19): implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings. Department of Education., updated 1 June 2020
    • Face coverings in education. Department for Education., published March 2021

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