Enduring lockdown over a long period of time can affect your child’s social development and returning to school can certainly be a shock. A recent report from Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) National Child Health Poll in Australia found that 1 in 3 parents say COVID-19 has negatively affected their child's mental health, so it is important that parents, teachers and educators are prepared to support children in this transition.
To help, here is a list of simple things you can do to support the children in your lives during this time:
1. Recognise the signs
A child struggling with their mental health shows visible signs that they need your support. Most commonly, these are active or emotional behaviours such as:
• being angry, hyperactive or disruptive
• withdrawing, being anxious or emotional
These behaviours can affect how your child communicates with others as well as how they build relationships, ultimately leading to more of a struggle when they head back to school.
2. Communication is key
Encourage your child to communicate about their experiences, feelings and thoughts on everything! Lockdowns, COVID, returning to school, how their relationships with others are re-establishing, and so on.
Tune in to what your child’s body language is telling you, and try to respond to non-verbal messages too. For example, ‘You’re very quiet this afternoon. Did something happen at school?'
3. Be confident
Children seek reassurance from the adults in their life and returning to school can be a daunting thought. If you are confident about the return to school, this will ease your child’s anxiety and is an optimistic step towards life returning to some level of normal.
4. Re-establish routines
Having a routine and set expectations in a child’s life is more important than you might think. There is familiarity with having a routine that can be comforting, so returning to the routine you had with your child prior to the pandemic can support their return to school.
5. Be available
Most important of all, make sure your child knows you’re there for them when they need it. Ensuring you’re available for them when they’re having a mental health moment and need someone to talk to will help them feel less alone during this scary transition.