When the government announced that schools in England will resume on the 8th of March 2021. I welcomed the news with fearful relief, and I tried to gauge my children’s feelings about the news in a short casual chat. See the chat below.
Me- the news is that you will be returning to school on the 8th of March.
Teen1- Yes, I have heard, we are going back on the 8th of March.
Teen2 – I am not going back; I do not want to go back.
From this chat, it was somewhat clear to me that I needed to do a little bit of work to help them manage any fears they might have.
Like my children, thousands of children and young people around the country may be experiencing worries about the return to school. Whilst some worries may be noticeable, some may go unnoticed.
Presently, some of the worries might include worries about catching the Corona virus, worries about school performance given the recent school closures. Some worries might be about appearance and socialising with peers. Regardless of the nature of the worry, both real and hypothetical worries need to be paid careful attention to avoid escalation. Research has shown that some worries can become unmanageable and go on to cause clinically diagnosable illnesses.
Worrying is normal particularly in these difficult times, it can sometimes lead to creative ways of overcoming real worries. However, recurrent worrying can have negative impact on normal daily life. It can lead to fear of school, of socialising, fear of joining in family activities and low mood.
As a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, I found that talking can help young people to manage their worries. One step at a time they begin to identify real worries from hypothetical worries, this can help them to come up with skills to challenge distorted thoughts, negative behaviours, and difficult emotions.
Please bear in mind that as a parent, you know your child best and you may not necessarily be a trained therapist to support your child. You know your child best and can do an equally good job particularly in the early stages where no professional support is required.
Below are some suggestions which I sometimes find helpful when supporting worried teenagers:
- Create a relaxed and open atmosphere, let your child see that you are present.
- Remain calm, let your child see that you are fully present, validate their fears.
- Show empathy, talk about a time when you had difficulties and share what you did to overcome them.
- You can be creative with your child. Write down all the worries on a cardboard, or on sticky note pad etc. This could lead to a chat about how they feel, and about which worries they can do something about. Ensure that your child is leading during this activity, you can play the observer or facilitator. This can work well with younger children, with teenagers talking in a relaxed atmosphere when they are receptive might be enough, keeping it short and simple.
- Brainstorm different ideas on what they think can be done to manage their worries, let your child come up with the ideas.
For example, for fears about going to school, you could look at talking to the class teacher, pastoral support team, going in for half days, doing work in a smaller nurturing space in school. Or starting school later with a reduced timetable etc.
Fears about catching Corona Virus could include suggestions about carrying a pocket sanitiser, hand washing at appropriate intervals to limit over handwashing.Brainstorm activities that can help to reduce low mood like taking up boxing, makeup, taking up contact sports/outdoor activities or arts and craft.
6. Take little steps to build confidence, work closely with the schoolteacher to monitor progress.
7. Help your child to put a plan in place on how they are going to go about managing their worries, the support/prompts they will need, they might need support from school.
8. Set some goals but be relaxed about achieving them.
9. Start with the smallest achievable goals to help build confidence.
10. Review the plan to see what is working and what needs changing in managing the worries.
If things do not improve, talk to your child’s school SENDCO or a member of staff who gets on well with your child. You can also contact us for further information via the contact details on this website.