How to help your child return to school successfully

Explain that there will be new routines and rules

It's important our children don't go into school expecting everything to look like normal - only to get a huge shock when they walk through the door.

Explain things will look different - but tell your child not to worry, because the teachers have been thinking about how to make the school safe and will help you get used to the new layouts and routines.

But many things will remain the same:

  • They'll be dropped off on the same playground

  • They'll see the same adults around school

  • You'll be taking the same route to school

  • They'll be playing on the same playground

Talk about worries or fears

In the run-up to returning, make time for little conversations about how they're feeling about going back to school.

Be careful how you do this - the aim is to see if they do have concerns, not to plant new ones!

If your child does have worries, acknowledge their concerns first before offering reassurance.

For example:

  • It's normal to feel worried about the virus, but here's what you can do to stay safe in school

  • I bet other children will feel worried about having a new teacher, too. That's why Mrs Hicks and Mrs Shillito will spend lots of time explaining how everything will work.

And a good way of turning a negative into a positive is using the phrase, "At least..."

As in:

  • I know we can't spend time together today, but at least we can have some time straight after school

  • I know you're in a different class from your best friend, but at least the teachers are going to make sure everyone makes new friends

And don't be surprised if children want to talk about the same issue a number of times. Kids often need to (repeatedly!) revisit an idea with an adult to get reassurance nothing has changed.

Show them you are calm (even if you are not)

It's natural for all parents to have some level of anxiety about returning their child to school.

But however you feel on the inside, it's important to show calm to your child.

Children pick up on lots of little clues about how their parents are feeling - and they use this information to inform how they should be feeling. If we look worried, they pick up on this and start worrying too!

So, if you do have concerns, it time to be an actor. However you feel on the inside, aim to convey calm on the outside.

To do this, we need to think about:

  • What we say (and what they overhear)

  • Our tone of voice

  • Our body language

Routines for sleep

In most families, routines around children's sleep have become more... flexible!

Bedtimes have drifted until later in the evening... and children are getting up later in the morning as a result.

To move immediately from these routines to 'normal running' and getting into school for 08:45 am could be jarring.

So start moving your child's bedtime back towards normality now. Do this gradually, before they get back to school.

Because if we leave it to the last minute, it's likely our children won't have time to adjust, and won't be able to get to sleep at the earlier time.

And then your child won't only have to cope with going back to school on the first day back - they'll be managing exhaustion too.

Be kind to yourself

Everyone has been through an emotional rollercoaster over the last few months - that includes you and your child.

And if you've felt overwhelmed or worried about sending your child back to school, that's okay. It's entirely normal.

So be kind to yourself.

Make sure you:

  • Build in time for activities you find de-stressing

  • Get some exercise (even if that's just walking)

  • Take some time alone, if you need it

All of these activities will help make sure you're in an emotionally strong place - so you can support your child with their emotions too.