You and your child/teen may be filled with excitement, elation and joy at the prospect of returning to school. Others might be feeling apprehensive, dubious and a little anxious. Whatever you and your child/teen are feeling, it is important to accept yours/their feelings. There is no right or wrong; good or bad. By accepting how you feel, you allow yourself and your child/teenager to express them rather than bottling them up. In doing this, it then allows you and child/teenager to take ownership of your/their feelings. This in turn allows you to choose how to respond, so that you do not allow yours/their feelings to control you.

Once you and your child/teen have accepted with your/their emotions, it is helpful to begin to foster ‘Back to School’ habits. How? By following three steps:

1. Routine

2. Role Play

3. Communication

1. Routine

Over the summer, it is easy to get out of routine. There is nothing wrong this. But now that it is the last week of summer, it is crucial to begin to ease your child/teen back into routine. Start by sending your child/teen to bed a bit earlier. Wake them up a bit earlier. In doing this, it is not a shock to system when they must wake up earlier for school.

To help them adjust to sitting for longer periods, encourage them to do more tasks that require concentration. For instance, doing puzzles, colouring and reading are good ways to nurture sitting and focusing. Ecourage them to do more solo tasks, so they feel more independent and confident sitting by themselves.

You could also develop their listening skills by creating a game, such as an outdoor assault course; or an indoor task of dressing their teddies. However, the child/teen is blind-folded, and they must listen to their team-mate to complete the task. Switch over, so that your child/teen can give instructions. In doing this, it helps to develop communication skills of active listening, encouraging team-mates and articulating themselves.

2. Role Play

One of the biggest issues that kids have expressed (both child and teen) is that returning to school is going to be weird. And to be perfectly honest with you, it is going to be weird. They are going to have to sit alone at a desk. They will not be able to share equipment. Many will have to bring in their own lunches and sit at their own desks to eat. Therefore, it is vital that you make it familiar to them, so that they can adjust to the changes implemented by their school.

To achieve this, talk to their school. Ask their school what changes have been made so you can prepare your child/teen for the new procedures. Then, role play it in the home. If possible, set up chairs apart. If you do not have enough chairs, use cushions instead. Be creative to make it fun and less daunting.

3. Communication

Communication is key to beating the ‘Back to School Blues’. Talk to your child/teen, asking them open-ended questions to illicit detailed responses. You can do this before they attend school and you can do this after their return to school. If you feel they are not coping, talk to their school immediately. 

Talk to other parents and your child’s/teen’s friends to gauge where their peers are at. If you are concerned, talk to your GP. This is because the government have made it compulsory for kids/teens in England to return to school, which means that fines will be issued if your child/teen does not attend school. It is therefore imperative you talk so that you do not add more stress to yourself and your child.

Think outside the box when it comes to communication! Although people are surprised that anxiety has declined amongst teens since lock-down, I am not. Consider this: kids/teens have been at home with their parents. Families have been forced to slow down and spend more time together. School have had to slow their pace too and have focused on rewarding effort rather than just the results. As a result, teens feel less pressure and feel more support. What has this to do with communication? Well, under the new government rules, children’s/teen’s classes are going to be like their ‘school family’ in terms of how they operate. They will be spending most of their time together; they will be in their ‘bubbles’ together; they will self-isolate together. So, try to reach out and communicate. You can do this by creating family WhatsApp groups. Perhaps you could set up a weekly, or fortnightly Zoom call between parents. By keeping in touch, you can support one another, and you can continue the family feel outside of school closures.

Overall

Remember, to beat ‘Back to School Blues’ be creative! Start getting your child/teen back into a routine by making subtle changes now in the last week of summer. Be in communication with your child/teen’s school, including other parents and kids. Start up support groups online and on WhatsApp to keep in the loop. Do role plays at home to ensure your child knows what will happen when they get to school, so that the ‘weird’ becomes familiar, and so they feel safe.

Most importantly, although the government has stipulated that wearing masks in schools in England will not be compulsory, it does not mean that you cannot encourage your child to wear them in school. If you and your child/teen prefer to wear a mask in school, then communicate this with your child’s/teen’s school. They will respect your wishes. After-all, if you and your child/teen do not feel safe, how will your child/teen get the best from what the school has to offer?