2020 hasn’t gone quite as we expected. The pandemic has changed the way we have business meetings, use transport and interact with loved ones. While a lengthy lockdown put many UK childrens’ education on pause, children are now back to school, but with new social distancing measures in place.
Reassuringly, children are less likely to become unwell from COVID-19 than adults. But the virus is still around – along with the usual back-to-school infections like the common cold and stomach bugs – and we want to make sure kids are as safe and happy as possible.
So, how can you help them feel comfortable both physically and mentally after a rollercoaster first half of the year? Follow these tips for peace of mind...
How to help your child settle back in at school
1. Have positive conversations about what’s different
Nobody wants their child to feel surprised or confused because things aren’t quite the same as before. First things first, it’s important to have plenty of conversations about the new normal. But on top of informing them, make sure you gauge how they feel about the changes. Are they experiencing anxiety over separating after a long time spent at home? Do they miss playing with a group of friends? By communicating about these feelings early, you can help motivate and reassure your child as the term goes on.
2. Keep practicing excellent hygiene habits at home
The 20-second (or “happy birthday”) handwashing rule is nothing new – we’ve been doing this since we first became aware of coronavirus. But it’s super important not to let good hygiene habits slide. Keep up the good work when it comes to things like washing hands and wiping surfaces frequently. This will help your child transition to new hygiene rules at school.
3. Make healthy food choices to boost immunity
Preparing your child with good nutrition is a great way to help fight off illnesses – from ear infections to cold sores. And now coronavirus is part of our everyday lives, it’s more important than ever to promote a good diet that supports your child’s immune system.
Key nutrients for healthy immune function include vitamins A, C, D, zinc and selenium, which you can get from something as cheap and simple as an apple. Aim for five portions of nutrient-packed fruits and veg each day, limit sugary foods and boost brain function with plenty of protein. We have an informative guide to healthy food choices – see how many of these you can get in your little one’s lunch box.
4. Keep a good routine
Has lockdown thrown your child’s daily routine out the window? That’s totally normal. They may be finding the back-to-school adjustment a bit tricky, so it could be a good idea to practice proper routine at weekends too. Try starting the day a little earlier, going back to regular bedtimes (see these tips on getting children to sleep) and limiting screen time.
5. Treat it as a fresh start
‘Back to school’ this year doesn’t mean back to school as your child knew it before. There will be plenty of changes that make it feel like a new experience. So, make it an exciting one by helping your child with all the right resources. Read up on the new term curriculum and familiarise them with upcoming literature to help them get stuck in – you can use online resources or your local library if it’s open. If you can, upgrade their stationary to get them in a productive mindset, and maybe even get them a cool new haircut for a new term. Most children love to start a term with a few new things.
As important as it is to help your child settle into an unprecedented return to school, it’s so important for you to be in the best frame of mind, too. Make sure you talk about your own concerns and anxieties to friends, family or a professional if you need. It could also be useful to talk to other parents to be mindful of what their worries are and how they’re handling them – chances are, you’re in the same boat.