Are your children ready to go back to school?
Mental health tips during the coronavirus outbreak
We recently surveyed children and parents across China on how they feel about returning to school. We have received over 40,000 responses, and have gathered tips and advice to address some of your greatest concerns.
Not surprisingly, children have mixed feelings about going back to school. Children are excited to go back, but they are also worried about health and school safety, and the impact of the outbreak on their learning progress. Some children have been finding it hard to keep up with e-learning, and want help from their teachers to review the last few months of online content once they’re back in the classroom.
Just like their children, parents are also concerned about health and school safety and their children’s learning progress.
Have you tried talking to your child about returning to school? Have you asked your child how they’re feeling and if they have any worries about going back to school? How can you help prepare your child for going back to school?
Talk about going back to school
Starting today, try listening to your child. Have a conversation, instead of instructing them on the dos and don’ts of going back to school. You can start by asking how they are doing with being at home (do they miss schoolmates and teachers?) and their views and feelings about going back to school. Set aside time to make sure you are fully engaged and listening - put down your cellphone, and listen attentively. Remember, eye contact is important. While listening and talking to your child, communicate in a way to let them know you respect their feelings and concerns, and that you will work together through any challenges that arise before and after schools reopen. Use questions and phrases that prompt them to open up more like “how do you feel about that?” and “go on”.
Let your child finish talking before expressing your own feelings and concerns using language they understand. Make sure not to burden them with your own emotions and worries, but make them aware of things they should be mindful of once they return to school. This gives you the opportunity to discuss what you and your child might be able to do to address some of these concerns – like good hygiene practices including washing their hands before and after eating, and coughing into their bent elbows, as well as communicating concerns to teachers about areas of learning they have been struggling with while being stuck at home. Let them know that you love them and that even though you might not have all the answers, you will continue to support them and help them through challenges that may arise when they go back to school.
Pay attention to mood changes in your child
Besides worrying about safety and academic progress, children may face other challenges to returning to school. Challenges could include finding it difficult to reconnect with classmates after time apart, and getting back into the routine of going to school after being at home for so long. If your child is showing signs of stress, like uneasiness or irritability, share what you have observed and tell him or her that it is normal to have these feelings.
Talking through these feelings, where they are coming from and how to deal with them can help alleviate stress. While talking about stress, parents should also explain to their children that stress is a normal part of life. Everyone has stress and we have various ways to cope with it. For example, if your child is worried about their relationship with friends who they haven’t seen in a long time, you can brainstorm with him or her small actions that can help deal with this, such as “why don’t we set up a video call with your friends?” or “why don’t you play a game online with your friend?” to reconnect with them before school starts again.
Not all issues are solvable and stress will come up throughout your child’s life. Encourage your child to come up with other ways to deal with stress. Make a list of things that can help them relieve stress, and do something from the list next time he or she feels stressed out.
Get prepared for the reopening of school
Get information on school reopening dates and prepare for the new semester, both mentally and physically. Work with your child to develop a plan to ease into the school schedule. Your child may have been going to bed later than normal and lacking a structured routine. Work to get back into the normal bedtime routine, with a 30-45 minute wind-down period before the set bedtime to take a shower, brush their teeth, listen to some light music or read for a while. A wind-down routine can help them relax and fall asleep and get back into a school bedtime routine.
Getting into the school routine can be a difficult adjustment at first, but think about how far you’ve come since school and life was disrupted by COVID-19, and how you and your child have been able to adapt to the new normal of staying at and learning from home. There may be a few bumps at first, but you will get there.