Starting school after lockdown feels very different than returning after the summer holidays or when children initially start school.
Like all of us children have had a lot of change recently with not being able to see friends and family, online learning and restrictions on going out. Some will also be worried about the virus. Children may also see us anxious which makes them worry too.
Some children are likely to find the transition back into school harder than others. Here are some tips to help with the transition back into school.
- Talk it through with them, let them know how you are feeling too. Sometimes children (and adults) need time to think things over to feel secure, talking can help this process.
- Make contact with their friends that they will be seeing at school. Knowing that a familiar face will be there can really help.
- Be positive, some children may prefer being at home (take this as a complement) but try and remind them of the things that they enjoy at school. Don’t be put off if they give you a list of things, they don’t enjoy but do acknowledge them. whilst they may not show it the positive points you mention will help them.
- Get back into the school routine before the night before, try and reduce late nights, get lunch boxes out and school uniforms.
- Talk about the positive things you re going to do after school. We also have a blog on separation anxiety if your children are finding parting from you difficult.
- If your child is anxious about going back to school speak to their teacher.
- There are a few online therapeutic stories that can help children process going back to school.
- Some children might like a diary or journal to write their feelings down in.
- Try not to project your own anxieties onto them. Be positive about the return and if you have concerns discuss these with another adult out of earshot of your child.
Finally, be understanding, when they start back, they may be more tired than usual. They may be more emotional too and this is likely to impact on their behaviour. If you are seeing emotional out bursts try not to get cross, or as we say in the Raising children courses ‘Don’t get in the ring’. This behaviour is likely to improve once they feel settled.
Back to school: How to cope with Childhood Social Anxiety after the lockdown (by Jack Teare from Affinity)
Going back to school traditionally means seeing friends again, getting excited to learn new things and it signifies a fresh new start. But with the end of the previous school year being so different and mixed up with the social lockdown, some children may not be feeling the way they usually do.
Child development can be reduced if they’ve missed out on some of the valuable benefits of social play. The lack of socialising in groups could have led to social anxiety too. So, to help prepare children for when schools reopen and to support them as they start overcoming social anxiety, here’s some advice…
Life after lockdown for children
While the lockdown is less strict than it was back in April and May, a lot of us are still feeling the effects. Children, in particular, may be affected for many years to come, especially when you consider that an estimated 700million days of education have been lost. Plus, for younger children, school is not only where they learn, but where they start adjusting to being around others, where they start developing social skills through play, and where they begin making new friends. To have lost even a couple of months of this valuable outdoor recreation time could result in a reluctance to return to social situations.
As yet, there have been no academic studies on how social distancing could impact child development, but national disasters and other school closures do give us a good idea. In addition to the reduced social and emotional skills, we may see lower literacy and numeracy skills, as well as an increase in childhood mental health issues like anxiety. But there are ways you can alleviate these issues.
Why is social play important?
The social interaction acquired through play can set a child up for life. It helps them learn about talking to new people and grows their confidence, maturity, and social skills. The social benefits of play are countless.
Cooperation is needed for the swing set, patience and encouragement for the monkey bars, and so much more. Where else can they learn these skills at a young age except on a school or public playground?
The symptoms of social anxiety
- Difficulty sleeping
- Behaving clingy and irritable
- Lack of confidence trying new things
- Difficulty concentrating
- Angry outbursts
- Avoiding social situations
It can present itself in a number of ways, but if your child has started exhibiting any of this behaviour during lockdown or before the new school year, they may have childhood social anxiety. It’s usually seen when a child has had an extended break from social situations or if they’re starting a new school, but getting them slowly involved in group play can help.
That’s why school playgrounds have such a wide range of equipment like slides, climbing frames, and activity boards. It allows children to choose to either get involved with others or do some solitary play if they don’t want to be in a group yet.
How you can help children cope with social anxiety
There are professionals out there who think children will be fine after the lockdown and will be able to pick up where they left off with their friends. But what’s true for one child, may not be true for another. Considering they’ve missed out on those all-important social interaction benefits, it’s good to be prepared either way. Especially when you add in the social distancing restrictions that may still be in place come September.
Here are some ways to restart social interaction and some advice on maintaining social interaction with other children while at home:
- Talk about your feelings and theirs
Children pick up a lot of signals from their parents, so if you’re worried, it’s likely your child is feeling a similar way. The best thing to do is talk to them and explain why you’re feeling that way. This could encourage them to speak out as well and will allow you to help them understand what’s going on in the world.
- Tell them it’s ok
Once everything is out in the open, it’s important to let them know that it’s perfectly normal for them to feel lonely or angry or scared. It’s an unprecedented situation and validating their feelings will help them process them.
- Tell them the truth
They already know the world is different, but you should manage their expectations for returning to school. There may still be social distancing rules in place and helping them understand what to expect, or even showing them in your own home, will help them prepare to cope with the changes.
- Get online
Phone calls and video conversations are an easy way you can restart your children’s friendships. If you don’t have access to that kind of equipment, why not try a socially-distanced meetup? You could play make-believe and tell the kids they have to stay in their ‘bubbles’. Or if they’re still shy and anxious about it, get the other parent to bring along a book or game they both have and can play with at the same time.
The bottom line is that play helps kids interact, and the lockdown has limited their access to the kind of social play they need to develop important life and emotional skills. Finding ways to get them playing again and helping them process their feelings is the first step, but if you want to explore childhood social anxiety further, the NHS website should help.
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