I don’t envy kids right now. After a year of uncertainty, home-schooling, and missing out on crucial socialisation, they’re expected to slot back into school and pick up their studies from where they left off. The ramifications of successive national lockdowns, however, will surely be long-lasting. Our nation is facing a mental health crisis and children are right up there, when it comes to needing help and support to adjust back into the new ‘normal’.
Some kids have done near to no schoolwork, others desperately missed the structure and routine of school or felt isolated from their friends. The effects of hearing about Covid-19 day in, day out, daily death totals and the mantra of hands, face, space may also have untold, hidden effects that might only come to light in the years to come. Going back to school and getting into the mindset of learning when you’ve been out of it for so long is no mean feat for anyone.
Signs of Back-to-School Anxiety
Anxiety can come out in all sorts of ways in kids and adults. These are just some of the signs that can indicate anxiety.
- Angry outbursts
- Headaches and stomach-aches*
- Bed wetting
- Bad dreams
- Waking up in the night
- Difficulty sleeping
- Not wanting to do schoolwork
- Worried that bad things may happen
- Refusal to go to school
(*Always check with GP to rule out medical issues*)
Trust your instincts. If you feel that something’s not right with your child, it probably isn’t. Some behaviour can be a phase, but if you notice a pattern developing or that a certain behaviour seems to happen at the same time, it’s time to look for the trigger.
How to Calm Kids Going Back to School
Check Your Own Stress Levels
Are you an anxious or stressed person? The likelihood is that if you are, then you’re teaching your kids how to be anxious too. It’s a hard truth to stomach but kids copy how we handle situations. They do as we do, not as we say.
Sending kids back to school can also be anxiety-inducing for parents because there’s pressure to reinstate routines. It's time to give yourself a mental health check too. Don’t take on too many commitments and put yourself under additional pressure. Make sure you have relaxation time and talk about your own worries to someone. If anxiety is a big issue for yourself, then get professional help. So many people were not taught how to handle stress and anxiety as children, and it impacts them as adults, only to then be passed onto their own children.
Speak to the School
If you suspect that your child is very anxious about school, speak to their teacher and make them aware. Keep the lines of communication open and check in with them regularly.
It’s also important to keep in mind other issues too, like bullying and undiagnosed learning disorders as these too can cause childhood anxiety. Getting feedback from your child’s teacher can be helpful to know what’s happening at school.
Speak to Your Child
It’s easy to dismiss worries but when kids open up, listen seriously and validate them. They want to feel understood and that they’re not weird or abnormal for having them.
Try to schedule regular one on one time, so that you have the opportunity for relaxed conversation with them. If you find it hard to talk to them about it, or they’re reluctant to open up, why not try reading a book together as a way of opening up the conversation. A personal favourite in our house is ‘The Huge Bag of Worries’ by Virginia Ironside, although aimed at two to five years, we read it with our eight-year-old and it’s still very relevant. Do your research and find a book aimed at your child’s age-group.
Aromatherapy for Anxiety in Children
Another tool that can be used with children is aromatherapy. Essential oils have been used for centuries by people suffering anxiety. Scentered Aromatherapy Balms are safe to use on children.
Apply Scentered De-Stress Balm whenever they might be feeling anxious, whether it’s at the school gate or when they’re at home.
If your child’s finding it difficult to sleep or wind down, why not try applying Scentered Sleep Well Balm, a few minutes before bed.
Once you’ve applied the balm, get them to take 3 deep, slow breaths, breathing in for a count of 3 and out for 3. This will help your child feel calm and in control. The more regularly you use these balms, the quicker you’ll create a cue to relax or sleep.
Seek Professional Help
Consider speaking to your GP, local children’s centre or a child psychologist for further help and support. Additionally, parents and carers can get help and advice about children's mental health from Young Minds' free parent helpline on 0808 802 5544. Check the website (https://youngminds.org.uk) for operational hours.
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