Managing Back to School Anxiety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

With schools in NSW returning to full-time face-to-face learning this week, many children will no doubt be excited to see their friends and get out of the house. However, some kids may be feeling nervous about this transition. Children might be worried that this new ‘normal’ won’t be the same as before COVID-19, about how to safely interact with others, or about how friendship groups might have changed during lockdown.

We have put together some tips to help parents support their children through the return to school.

  1. Recognise the signs that your child might be worried. Noticing and addressing early warning signs in an important step in managing anxiety. You may have noticed your child asking you a lot of ‘what-if’ questions, such as “What if I go to school and get sick?”. Other signs may include restlessness, trouble sleeping, or headaches and nausea. For young children who do not have the words to describe how they are feeling, anxiety can manifest as meltdowns or aggressive outbursts. For older children, increase irritability or isolation may be some early warning signs.
  1. Talk to your child about their concerns. When the time feels right, open up the conversation with your child gently. Give your child space the space to think, talk, and to pause, as they might have more to say and are just searching for the right words. It is important to actively listen to their concerns. Normalise their feelings and answer their questions using age-appropriate language. You might like to consult reliable sources such as the Department of Health to provide them with accurate information. It may also be helpful to explore the positives of their return to school, such as activities they might be looking forward to. For a more extensive guide on how to talk to your children about COVID-19, click here. 
  2. Review social distancing practices and new school rules together. Speak to your children calmly and reassuringly about how school routines might be a little different to what they were before COVID-19. Revisit good hygiene practices such as handwashing and sneezing or coughing into your elbow. Let them know that social distancing is still a good idea, and that they should avoid hugging their friends, or sharing food, drinks and stationery with them. There may be a host of new school rules surrounding the use of playground equipment, drinking from bubblers, staggered lunchtimes, and so on. Going over these rules together will help your child feel more at ease at school.
  3. Be prepared. Planning for the first day back at school can also help alleviate anxiety. Packing your child’s schoolbag with them the night before, making sure they have all the equipment they need, and getting enough sleep the night before can be useful ways to help your child feel more prepared for their first day back at school.

We hope you find these tips helpful. We wish all our families a safe and positive return to school!