Easing back-to-school anxiety post COVID-19
Author Dr Tanya Unni
As schools reopen, parents are noticing the huge changes COVID-19 has made in our communities.
Skyrocketing financial uncertainty and the confusion surrounding education has left many parents feeling uneasy as we move into our ‘new normal’. Although many are breathing a sigh of relief that their homeschooling woes are finally over, a new set of concerns have taken over as kids head back to the classroom.
Sending your children into what seems like a sea of children and potential germs after such extreme government restrictions can understandably make the return to a new school routine more stressful than usual.
In such times it’s key for parents to understand the precautions authorities and schools have put in place to protect children in the classroom. It’s natural to be protective of your family’s wellbeing, so if parents need some reassurance on the measures being taken, I encourage them to connect with their children’s teachers or school administration and put their mind at ease.
Understanding social distancing at school
The most important thing parents can do to protect their family is to communicate with your children and talk them through the importance of good hygiene as they re-enter the classroom. Work with your family to show them key steps such as, how to wash their hands properly including duration and frequency, demonstrate how to sneeze or cough into your elbow, how to social distance correctly, wear a face mask (if that’s your area’s recommendation), and advise kids to avoid sharing anything where possible.
Although the enforcement of social distancing is a priority for schools, parents need to make sure their kids understand that social distancing – even from their friends – is keeping them safe, and more than ever directions from teachers must be followed.
Despite all of the precautions and perfect steps, hugs with grandparents or any at-risk loved ones should still be held off, as the community is not completely out of the woods yet. As hard as it may be, those at risk should still keep their distance and remain isolated as any contact can still put them in danger.
Children will feel anxious
Now it isn’t just parents and schools who are feeling the strain as children return to the classroom. Children are feeling the pressure and anxiety of going back to school just as much as adults.
Parents need to make sure they’re supporting their kids through this time and reassuring them that such nerves are completely normal – maybe even let them know that you’re feeling nervous too, but know you can get through it.
You need to make sure kids are being validated, let them know they’re not alone and ensure they feel seen and heard.
Families and teachers need to remember to be patient in this transitional period, time is a key factor in understanding, and children tend to get confused when their surroundings become complicated. Don’t rush children’s coping processes or force them to adopt a specific mentality, so long as they’re following health advice, such pressure may see their mental health decline.
“Parents and teachers need to work together”
Parents and teachers need to work together to make it clear to children that measures like social distancing or missing a trip to the grandparents is not forever and this phase will pass. COVID-19 is just another addition to the confusion and anxiety children feel as they deal with new situations through their schooling that may be difficult to cope with. Parents need to make sure they’re supporting, not only through COVID-19 but through the everyday problems, such as a crush or a test.
We have successfully ‘flattened the curve’, however, we need to remember the fight against COVID-19 is not finished. Families can be comforted by the fact that there have been very few complicated cases involving children in Australia, but we all need to stay vigilant for the time being.
Although the transition back to school may be a bit bumpy, it’s important to remain positive and rally as the community moves into the new normal.
A reminder that I am always available, should you need help or advice.
Wellbeing Coordinator / Registered Psychologist