Clinical psychologist Dr Anna Colton explains many children are stressed about going back to school after lockdown and advises parents to go through each worry one by one.
By Lisa Salmon
My 10-year-old son is about to return to school for the first time since lockdown, and he’s already worrying he won’t be able to keep up with the work and he might catch coronavirus. How can I ease his anxiety?
Clinical psychologist Dr Anna Colton says: “First of all, validate the areas he’s feeling anxious about so he feels heard and understood.
“Help to normalise his worries by telling him loads of his classmates will be worried because everyone’s missed a term of school, many will have struggled to work at home and lots will be worried about the virus too.
“In fact, research I worked on with Explore Learning (www.explorelearning.co.uk) found six in 10 children were stressed about going back.
“Remind him how well he was doing socially and educationally before lockdown and of everything he enjoyed about school, his friendships, teachers, feedback on his work.
“Reassure him you have confidence in him and he’ll be fine at school, he’ll settle back in quickly, will love being taught in person and playing with his friends. Tell him if he struggles, he should tell you – and you and his school can both help him.
“Regarding Covid, talk to him about how the virus works. Educate him by giving him as much information as is appropriate. Explain he’s at low risk of becoming unwell, and that school will be taking whatever precautions they need to ensure he and all the children are safe, as well as the teachers.
“Work through his anxieties one by one and wherever possible get him to do the thinking, so for example, ask him what he thinks would help him or what you or his teacher would suggest – this will teach him to reassure himself when you’re not there. Make sure he knows he can always talk to you and other adults about his worries and you’re on his side and will help him.
“If you find the worries are growing the more you discuss them, set a time of day, e.g: 6-6.20pm, called ‘worry time’ when you talk about them. Imagine unlocking a box with a key to take them out and talk about them at this time each day and only at this time.
“Once worry time ends, you lock the worries away in a box until the next worry time. This will help to contain them and stop them taking up his and your whole day.
“Finally, talk to school and let them know how anxious he is. They will want – and be able – to help.”