CHILDLINE ADVICE: Helping your child cope with a daunting return to school

When we hear the words ‘back to school’, it would usually mean shoe shopping and sorting out last-minute summer homework. But this year, it’s very different.

Monday, 24th August 2020, 12:00 am
Updated Saturday, 10th October 2020, 11:40 am
Returning to school can be daunting time for children.

Children are returning to schools that might be unrecognisable, with changes put in place to maintain social distancing and cleaning. Even though we might understand this as adults, some children may find it challenging to get used to, especially compared to their experience of school pre-lockdown.

Through Childline, we’ve heard from many children who are worried about the changes they’ll face when they return to school.

One young person told Childline: “I’m really scared to go back school, things are going to be so different and I don’t cope with change very well… I’m frightened about how I will cope.”

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We also know that children have been struggling with their emotions during this period, with Childline counsellors delivering 21,827 counselling sessions about mental and emotional health during lockdown alone.

So, with schools in the area returning from next week, I want to talk today about how parents and guardians can be supporting children as they enter this new normal.

A first step might be starting a conversation with your child about how they are feeling about going back to school. Ask them what they’re excited about, or are particularly nervous for. Some children may not be able to put their feelings into words, and may unconsciously present their emotions physically instead. For younger children, this might include thumb sucking or bedwetting, while older children may have mood swings.

It can be useful to sit down with them and talk them through some of the changes they might see at their school. Maybe school will start at a different time, or there will be temperature testing, but assure them that it’s for their safety.

Try to help them manage their expectations, for example they may not be with their favourite teacher or friends – but they might have a new teacher they like and make new friends. Remember, you can always signpost your children to or call 0800 1111 for further support as school begins.