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Supporting your child’s return to school

Specialist Nurse Advisers – Mental Health, Bupa
27 August 2020

Next week will see the start of a new school year – and all children, in all year groups, will return to school full-time. After such a turbulent year of lockdown and school closures, this may be the first time since March that your child will be back in the classroom.

Your child (and you) are likely to have mixed feelings about returning to school. They may be excited to get back and see their friends, or perhaps nervous and apprehensive because of coronavirus still being around. If they’re starting a new school or have a new teacher, things may feel daunting.

Here, we share some tip tops to support your child back to school. Bupa GP, Dr Samantha Wild, also offers some advice around general hygiene and health to reduce the risk of catching and spreading coronavirus.

Ways to support your child’s return to school

Whether or not your child got to return to school before the summer, they might have mixed feelings about heading back to the classroom next week. 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 are some ways you can support your child.

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 how to feel about it. Stay upbeat and put a positive focus on aspects when you talk about it.

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 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

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 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. There will also be changes to some subjects, such as PE and music, so they can be taught safely. You may have received some information about the ways they’re doing this and what support they expect from parents and care givers. If not, you may receive updates from next week.

Dr Luke Powles , Associate Clinical Director, Bupa Health Clinics, explains the risk of coronavirus to children: “Evidence shows that children are at a much lower risk than adults of becoming severely ill from coronavirus. There’s also no evidence that children transmit the disease any more than adults do. 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 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.
  • 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 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 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.

We’ve created a short animation for you to watch with your child to help them understand the importance of hygiene and have fun learning about it too.

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

    • What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges in the autumn term. Department of Education., updated 21 August 2020
    • Actions for education and childcare settings to prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020. Department of Education., updated 16 June 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., updated 4 August 2020
    • Coronavirus (COVID-19): implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings. Department of Education., updated 1 June 2020

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