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Preparing to go back to school

August 24, 2020

The thought of going back to school after the summer break has always brought up mixed feelings. Moving up to a new class or starting at a brand new school can be a daunting and uncertain time, and this year there’s an extra layer of complexity for pupils and parents to deal with.

It’s undeniable that things will be very different from normal. There will be a lot of new rules to take in – such as increased hand washing, having to wear masks on the school bus, and distancing measures. The school environment will be different, too, with new signage, and desks spaced further apart, for example.

Here are some ideas to help get your child prepared for returning to the classroom.

Have a conversation about it.

Set aside time to talk to about the transition, in a way that’s appropriate to their age and personality. Ask them what they’re feeling, and what they’re thinking. Once you understand this you can talk through any concerns together.

Every child will feel different. They might be eager to get back and see their friends, or apprehensive about what it will be like – or a bit of both. They might be frightened about catching the virus, anxious about ending up in a ‘bubble’ with someone they don’t like, or dreading wearing a mask. Let them know that whatever they feel, it’s normal.

Remind them that everyone will be in the same boat: this is an unknown for everybody, including the teachers. If they’re worried about being behind on their studies, reassure them that all their classmates will be in the same position.

Go through the information together.

Read over any materials and guidance the school has provided, so they know what to expect. Make sure they understand exactly what’s going to happen, and what the safety procedures will be, and why they’re in place. Take any opportunities the school has given you to ask questions or watch a virtual tour, for example. There are also some useful resources on the CBBC website, as well as BBC Bitesize.

Some older children might be a bit blasé about things, or reluctant to stick to the rules. If so, this is a chance to talk to them about why certain measures have been implemented – giving context will make it more likely they’ll follow them.

Talk about what to expect.

Have a discussion about what the school environment will look like and feel like. Imagining and visualising the changes will help your child to orientate themselves well beforehand, and ease the transition.

Think about the good things.

Ask them what they’re looking forward to about getting back to school. Emphasise that although things won’t be the same, they can still enjoy learning and spending time with their friends.

Find some fun ways to get ready.

While things may be strange, this is a chance for a fresh start after a difficult few months. Go shopping for new stationery, or a new rucksack or lunchbox, to mark the occasion. If the school has sent some ‘icebreaker’ or preparation activities to complete before school starts, you can work on these together.

If parenting and home schooling over these last few months has left you feeling low and anxious, it may be worthwhile considering cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as a way of learning some techniques that will help. Online CBT is very accessible – evening appointments are available, for example – which may be useful if you’re juggling many roles. You can check whether online CBT is available in your area here.

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