Back to School – Support Your Child’s Mental Health

Across the globe, students head back to school. Countries like Germany, France, Finland, Netherlands, Austria, Canada, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Japan have re-opened schools. After a long absence, it is natural for most children to be worried about going back to school. From community skills to morals, mental health issues to guidance, there is much to be done in the lives of young people, many of whom may have become by now very accustomed to home and family life. Here are some tips on how parents can help their children get back into school life.

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Talk to your child – It is important to have an open discussion with your child about COVID-19 and its effects on going back to school. Find out how they feel and what they think. Let your child know that it is okay to feel scared and try to answer their questions and reassure them in an age-appropriate way. Remember, you do not need to know all the answers – just having a conversation can help your child feel calmer.

Provide your child with as much information about their new routine and school day – When children are anxious, it is important to acknowledge the validity of their anxiety and encourage them to talk about their emotions. Itis also important to keep them informed of any changes they can expect, so you can work to normalise this different return to school. Stay up to date with school policies and let your children know about changes to classroom size, desk space, lunch or recess activities and extracurricular activities. It may also be helpful to mention the possibility of future school closures, so your child is not affected if their school closes down later in the year.

Reassure your child – There is a difference between dealing with your child’s concerns by telling them, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine,” and telling them “It’s alright to worry, but teachers and schools will put practices in place to keep you safe.” Telling them not to worry can minimise their feelings and experience. Self-assurance can open up a broader discussion about the importance of wearing a mask, social distancing and proper hand washing at school.

Re-establish a routine to help ease this transition – During lockdown it is understandable that your family’s routine may have changed. Children are likely to have been waking up later or going to bed later. To help them get ready for school, try to gradually get them back to their normal routine of breakfast and bedtime as they get closer to their return date.

Make yourself available – Be aware that your child may want more close contact with you at this time and feel anxious about separation. Try to provide this support whenever possible.

Do not put pressure on yourself – The transition back to school may take a while. Many children will find it difficult. Try your best to support, reassure and comfort them, without putting pressure on them or yourself to make sure their homework is done or to commit to a new routine as soon as possible.

Think ahead – As well as reflecting on what has happened during the past few weeks, it is important to help children develop a positive outlook on life for the future. At a time like this, it may be difficult to feel optimistic, but pointing to things they can look forward to will help them realise that the current situation is not permanent and that their feelings will change.

Seek support – Switching back to school after being in lockdown is not an easy task. You may find that your child has a problem with going back to school or experiencing difficulties while in school. If so, get to your child’s school as soon as possible so that you can inform them of the challenges and work together to support your child. If you are worried about your child’s mental health and think they need professional support, talk to your school and your doctor about the next best step.

In this stressful time, supporting ourselves, each other, and our children will help make the transition to the new school year easier for everyone. Take care of your mental health and the mental health of those you love. Don’t forget about our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) resources – Access your Wellbeing and Employee Assistance Program available for you and your family 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with all HanseMerkur Health Insurance Plans globally.