Health

The ultimate guide to navigating back to school


Going back to school tomorrow after an extended break will be nerve-wracking for many children and parents alike.  

Families are not only faced with the usual struggles of getting their children back into a routine and organising their uniforms but now they have to contend with Covid-19 restrictions and re-establishing relationships with old friends. 

Many parents may be left feeling worried about how they can guide their children through the ‘new norm’ at school, from making sure they properly social distance to helping them catch up with school work. 

Femail has spoken to experts to get tips and advice for how parents can assist their children with navigating the changes in their new school lives.

As children get used to the 'new norm' at school, it can also be a daunting time for parents who may be anxious about how they can best help their little ones adjust. Picture: Stock

As children get used to the ‘new norm’ at school, it can also be a daunting time for parents who may be anxious about how they can best help their little ones adjust. Picture: Stock

Navigating friendships

Research conducted by communication company No Isolation – which aims to reduce loneliness and self isolation – found 76 per cent of parents and carers are worried that their children are suffering from loneliness as a result of lockdown.

While children may be excited to socialise and move away from the loneliness they may be feeling, there may also be some who are worried about how they communicate with their friends as the pandemic continues to restrict who we are able to see and how we behaviour around people outside of our households. 

Returning to school after the long summer holidays may now seem scary and leave them wondering if friendships will have survived the summer. 

Childcare expert and founder of Nipperbout  Janthea Brigden said: ‘Even in ‘normal’ times, renewing friendships can feel awkward as children digest these changes. 

‘This year brings the additional possibility of loss or trauma – parents losing jobs, grandparents dying, marital splits.  

To tackle the fear “What if no one likes me?”, she suggests encouraging children to write a list of all the people who they know like them, including their family, and giving it to them to take to school. 

She said: ‘Just having that in their pocket to touch occasionally or read in the playground, may help.’

If the children are struggling to get along after such a long time apart, Ms Brigden advises setting up a meet up in parks or gardens after school. 

‘Bringing everyone into a different environment to socialise often defuses arguments,’ she said.    

Parental engagement expert Dr Kathy Weston advises giving children ‘sentence starters’ to help them start up conversations with their peers in the lunch queue or in the playground.

‘Simple sentences like “What year are you in?” “What school were you in before?”, “Is this your first year here?” can really give children the confidence to take that first step. ‘

If the children are struggling to get along after such a long time apart, Ms Brigden advises setting up a meet up in parks or gardens after school. Picture: Stock

If the children are struggling to get along after such a long time apart, Ms Brigden advises setting up a meet up in parks or gardens after school. Picture: Stock

She also suggests encouraging children to make others feel included but not to put pressure on children to make friends either. 

Parents may also be worried about their children’s social skills when they get back into the classroom as they have had limited time with other young children and may have forgotten how to share. 

To tackle the issue, Innovate UK created the Embers the Dragon School Readiness platform which aims to support children from the earliest stages of their development and encourage social skills.  

The expert behind the campaign Emma Selby said: ‘Encouraging turn taking behaviour through play can help warm up some of those rusty social skills. 

‘Board games at home can be one way of doing this or my personal favourite is a game of Balloon Keepy Up – it encourages turn taking, team work and problem solving but is also social-distancing friendly.’

Anxiety

As well as worrying if their friendships will be different when they walk through the gates on their first day, children may also feel anxious about the ‘new norm’ in the classroom. 

New research this week revealed a quarter of parents admit their children have anxieties about going back to normal activities since the pandemic. 

The findings, from cleaning products company ACE, paint a worrying picture for many parents who will naturally fear for their children’s physical and mental wellbeing when going back to school. 

Natural parenting expert Angela Spencer suggests limiting how much news children absorb every day could help reduce their anxieties. 

READ  NHS staff advocacy groups call for government u-turn on scrapping free hospital parking

‘The last time the world faced something as disruptive and worrying as this, the only exposure we had was a radio to listen to that gave one briefing a day,’ she said.

‘Now, the news is unavoidable and children are bombarded by it 24/7. Whether it’s the radio at home, TV or even the phones that many young children have, its unavoidable. 

‘It’s understandably all we are talking about and it can be easy to forget that little ears can hear and feel our emotions from us. 

‘So first of all, limit little ones exposure to the news and don’t talk about the situation in front of them either. Let children know it’s okay to talk to you about anything that is worrying them.’

The best-selling author also has also written a book, titled The Worries, which aims to help young children handle their fears. 

Former headteacher Andrew Hammond, of Discovery Education also suggests children may be feeling anxious about leaving their parents behind after such a long time together. 

He advises parents with children who are exceedingly anxious about returning could speak to the school about a possible staggered return, allowing them to get used to it in small increments. 

Simple or personalised? Guidance on what kind of mask to get your children for their first days back 

Secondary school pupils will have to wear masks to school when they return next week after a government U-turn last week. 

With just days to go before children return, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson last week said face coverings will be compulsory in the communal areas of schools covered by local lockdowns.

A decision on whether to wear masks in other schools will be left to individual heads. 

Some parents have also shared their desire for smaller children to wear masks and in England and Wales children over the age of 11 have to wear masks on public transport.

Here, FEMAIL reveals the best masks for your children, from simple colours to match their school uniform to personalised coverings so they don’t get mixed up.

Marks & Spencer has a great deal on school face masks, selling a pack of five adjustable kids' face coverings in plain colours for less than £10.

Marks & Spencer has a great deal on school face masks, selling a pack of five adjustable kids’ face coverings in plain colours for less than £10.

PLAIN COLOUR TO MATCH UNIFORM   

With the rules around coverings constantly changing, some schools may insist on plain masks to match uniform rules. 

Marks & Spencer has a great deal on school face masks, selling a pack of five adjustable kids’ face coverings in plain colours for less than £10. 

They also sell the pack in pastel and patterned colours for less strict schools, or when children need to wear a mask in the evening or at weekends.  

PERSONALISED

With hundreds of pupils at school, personalised masks will stop your child’s getting mixed up with someone else in class.

Prezzybox offer photo-printing onto masks form £9.99, for a unique design while various sellers on Etsy offer monogrammed masks on a black or navy design for a simpler look. They start at £14.99 for a pack of two. 

Snapfish also allow a fully personalised designs, with both photos and text from £9.99.

Prezzybox offer photo-printing onto masks form £9.99

Etsy offer monogrammed masks on a black or navy design for a simpler look. They start at £14.99 for a pack of two

Prezzybox offer photo-printing onto masks form £9.99 (left), for a unique design while various sellers on Etsy offer monogrammed masks on a black or navy design for a simpler look. They start at £14.99 for a pack of two (right)

ANTIBACTERIAL 

Lloyd’s are selling children’s face covering with antibacterial fabric treatment, which are also water repellent and washable up to 20 washes, which is £7.99 for a pack of four, which are currently on offer for buy one get one half price. 

The mask comes in four child friendly designs and is hand and machine washable.

Boots also offer an adjustable facemask for all ages for £10. Made by the Body Doctor, the mask uses skin friendly, patented, Polygiene technology, which does not interfere with skins natural bacterial flora.

Lloyd's are selling children's face covering with antibacterial fabric treatment, which are also water repellent and washable up to 20 washes, which is £7.99 for a pack of four, which are currently on offer for buy one get one half price

Lloyd’s are selling children’s face covering with antibacterial fabric treatment, which are also water repellent and washable up to 20 washes, which is £7.99 for a pack of four, which are currently on offer for buy one get one half price

PATTERNED

Catering for any age, The Lion Sparkles customers with a penchant for something unique will find just that when browsing through their range of masks. One designer sure to be a hit with on-trend teenagers is their powder pink design with a tiger print, which costs £18.   

British children’s designer Rachel Riley, who is best known for dressing Prince George and Princess Charlotte has repurposed her workshop which normally makes her handmade shoes to now produce masks. 

READ  David Walliams health: ‘I felt fear’ Britain’s Got Talent judge's lifelong health battle

She makes masks for children, men and women in her signature vintage prints, starting at £19. 

Frugi, the leading organic kidswear brand has some colourful, fun facemasks for kids on their website.

They come in two sizes, for 3-11 years (£9.95) and over 12 years (£13.96). 

Regatta also have a range of fun patterned masks in animal prints, including sharks, tigers, and crocodiles that start from £9 for a pack of three.

Catering for any age, The Lion Sparkles customers with a penchant for something unique will find just that when browsing through their range of masks. One designer sure to be a hit with on-trend teenagers is their powder pink design with a tiger print, which costs £18.

Catering for any age, The Lion Sparkles customers with a penchant for something unique will find just that when browsing through their range of masks. One designer sure to be a hit with on-trend teenagers is their powder pink design with a tiger print, which costs £18.

He said: ‘Children are incredibly resilient and will quickly adapt to being back in the classroom.

‘While it’s important to acknowledge these anxieties, parents should also remember that children take their lead from adults.’

The former headteacher suggests parents should remain confident and upbeat about the return to school by focusing on the positive aspects and asking their child what they enjoy most about school most – encouraging them to feel excited about it.

Safety measures

Most children will be going back to a school environment they’ve never experienced before – one with social distancing and heightened awareness of germs. 

Adjusting to the new measures may take time and the experts suggest there are some ways in which parents can help assist their transition. 

Natural parenting expert Ms Spencer stressed parents should take care to explain to their children why it is important to adhere to safety measures and why they have to stay away from everyone. 

One way she suggests doing this is to emphasise the fact some people ‘get poorly easier’ than others and the child must do what they can to protect them.  

Additionally, Ms Spencer says: ‘Help them understand the importance of washing their hands not just because of this virus but because of all germs.

One way ms Spencer suggests helping children with the transition to socially-distanced learning is to emphasise the fact some people 'get poorly easier' than others and the child must do what they can to protect them. Picture: Stock

One way ms Spencer suggests helping children with the transition to socially-distanced learning is to emphasise the fact some people ‘get poorly easier’ than others and the child must do what they can to protect them. Picture: Stock

‘It’s important however to let them still play in the garden, play with paints and other things to get dirty – we don’t want them to develop a phobia of dirt.’  

For the reassurance of both parents and children, parental engagement expert Dr Kathy Weston said schools are ‘adept at helping students get used to new practices that can help keep us all safe’. 

Instead she encourages parents to prepare their child for looking out for their own wellbeing, as opposed to worry about whether the people around them are following the rules. 

‘Children can only be responsible for themselves. There may good reasons why a particular pupil is not required to use a mask so don’t jump to assumptions,’ she said. 

‘Encourage your child to focus on themselves by doing what they can to socially distance and wash their hands as much as they can. We can’t control what others do.’

Sleep expert’s top tips for getting back children back into a routine 

Sleep expert Vicki Dawson, CEO of The Sleep Charity, and bed experts Time4Sleep have compiled several tips for parents to get their child back to their pre-lockdown routine.

Bring bedtime forward gradually

If their current routine involves a very late night then it is crucial to start by slowly pulling bedtime forward by 15 minutes every three nights.

Vicki says: ‘By pulling this forward gradually, there is a better chance that your child will stick to it.’

Create a soothing sleep environment

Children should associate their room with comfort, safety and relaxation in order to get a good night’s sleep.

Jonathan Warren, director at Time4Sleep advises: ‘Allowing your child to have a say when it comes to various aspects of their bedroom decor ensures that they enjoy being in their room and find it to be a comforting space. 

Regulate the room temperature – around 18 degrees – to maintain comfort whilst sleeping is also advised.

Introduce a ‘no screen’ rule before bedtime

Staring at screens before bedtime can trick your body into thinking that it is daytime, causing you to stay awake due to the artificial blue light.

To avoid blue light playing havoc with their body clock, Vicki warns: ‘Have them avoid screen activities an hour before bedtime as this can suppress the sleep hormone melatonin from being created.’ 

READ  British student, 27, tells of 'living in fear' in coronavirus-hit China

Consistency is key

By keeping a consistent wake up time you can regulate your child’s body clock to make sure they’re ready to be productive when they return to school. 

Vicki suggests opening the curtains straight away, and if possible go ingoutside for half an hour to help to reset your child’s body clock. 

Getting back into a routine 

Research by crisp brand Pom-Bear found 42 per cent of parents say their child is completely out of a routine and it will be tough to get back into one. 

With hoards of parents facing the same problem, Femail asked the experts for their advice for getting their children back into their pre-lockdown routine. 

In order to calm children and help them wind down before bed time, Ms Spencer suggests using some essential oils. 

‘Lavender is a good all-round oil for this as it helps to promote sleep, dispels anxiety and worry.’

In addition to the oils, she said parents should give their little ones plenty of cuddles  and allow them some time to feel and release any emotions which may trouble them before bed. 

‘If they’re angry, sad or not sure how they feel I always say “It’s ok, you can talk to me”. Let them know it’s okay to feel however they feel and that you can help them talk through it.’ 

In order to adjust children to their routine, Dr Nneka Ikeogu, a child psychologist, also suggests getting them to help with back to school preparations – making sure everything is ready. 

She said children may take some time to get get used to getting up and ready for school in the mornings and parents should not be surprised if they see some changes in their child’s behaviour in the first week back. 

‘Your child might resist getting back into a routine or doing what they need to do to prepare for going back. 

‘Remember that children tend to express their feelings through their behaviour and so they’ll need your support to understand what they’re feeling and to find ways of managing their emotions.’   

Catching up with schoolwork

After several months of homeschooling, children and parents may feel they have fallen behind with their work.  

Childcare expert Janthea Brigden said parents should expert for their children to be placed in ‘catch up’ groups to help them catch up on everything they have missed. 

While the children may feel singled out, she says parents should remind them that it isn’t just them, the chances are that most children will need to catch up in one subject or another.

Ms Bridgen, who was homeschooled by her mother in the 70s, said: ‘Try to support your child to feel ‘good enough’. Find the thing your child is most skilled at or interested in and give them plenty of encouragement. ‘

While it is often easy to focus on academic skills, she says it is important to place as much value on non-academic skills too.  

‘Keep your own need to have done a ‘good job’ with home schooling under check. 

‘Whatever you did was enough and most children will have learnt and gained so much just from the prolonged time of being around family. 

Childcare expert Janthea Brigden said parents should expert for their children to be placed in 'catch up' groups to help them catch up on everything they have missed. Picture: Stock

Childcare expert Janthea Brigden said parents should expert for their children to be placed in ‘catch up’ groups to help them catch up on everything they have missed. Picture: Stock

‘Avoid the blame game of “I told you so” and “You should have worked harder” and concentrate on all the things your children did learn whilst with you.’

Instead she encourages parents and children to see making mistakes as a valuable part of learning – a philosophy she says will also set them in good stead when they are an adult too.   

In contrast, Dr Kathy Weston suggests it is more important than ever, to emphasise the importance of school as a place where we go to learn and work hard. 

‘It is right that children got to relax and enjoy themselves over the summer, but a new school term, means we should be back to aiming high, goal-setting and doing our best.’

To help their children, she says parents should encourage their children to think about what they want to achieve this term and think about what they want to pursue. 



READ SOURCE

Leave a Reply