Help with Back to School Anxiety After Lockdown

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Two Solutions to overcome Back to School anxiety after COVID-19 Lockdown

The Problem

Life is inconsistent and changeable at the moment.

Amidst this there is a big change coming up on the horizon – children will return to school in September and it’s going to be different.

There has been a lack of structure and huge social void for 6 months and children have missed key milestones like exams, proms, or last days in Primary or Secondary School.

We can’t escape this and we can’t change it but we can let it go and look forward.

I encourage both parents and children to approach going back to school in a positive light and focus on the good things.  This will help you overcome back to school anxiety after COVID-19 Lockdown.

To the School Pupil

I hear you. It’s been chuffing difficult and you’re feeling more unsure and anxious about September than ever before.

Do the best you can one day at a time.  You are going to be OK.

Your brain has simply been doing what it does best in a crisis – it goes into survival mode.  In that mode its job is to keep you safe.  It deals with an extraordinary unforeseen situation, like booting you out of school for 6 months, by encouraging you to either:

  • hide and hunker down in your ‘cave’ until the situation changes
  • be on red alert and anxious about the latest headline or hand hygiene measures
  • be on a shorter fuse and angry at why this is happening to you

It is not surprising if you have felt any, or all, of these things.

It is not surprising that you feel anxious about coming out of your safe ‘cave’ and returning to school.

Or maybe you’re fed up and desperately want your own space now.

That’s OK and you will overcome this.

You are resilient, good at adapting and a lot of that fear which is making your brain go into survival mode can stop.

You do not need to worry about the ‘what ifs’ and all the bad things that could or might happen when you step through the school gates.

Instead scroll down to ‘The Solution’ and use some great ways to help yourself over the next couple of weeks.

To the Parent

I hear you. It is challenging worrying about how best to support you child, or children, returning back to school in these extraordinary circumstances.

Do the best you can one day at a time.  You are going to be OK.  

Try not to let your own personal concerns or worries radiate out – children derive concerns from their parents very easily.

Most children will adapt to the new normal within a week, perhaps two, but certainly within the month.  

Speak to them and offer support.  Expect some sleeplessness, grumpiness, arguments and frustration as they settle in and respond with empathy and kindness.  Cook nice dinners for when they get home, organise movie nights and give lots of positive reward.

Say ‘I’m really proud of you’ and ‘let’s just try it today and see what it’s like’.

This will support your wonderful young person to build resilience and self-belief, whilst recognising their courage at this time and respecting their emotional experiences.

You’ll be amazed and proud of them.

The Solution #1 Gamification

You can approach returning back to school like a video game – this is a principle of thought called ‘gamification’ which will get you engaged with going back to school in a positive light so that you cope easily with this new challenge.

If you’ve been sent a video of how your school will look when you go in, use that as a basis for your first day back video game.

You can pretend that hand sanitising, one-way systems and social distancing are your ‘anxiety zombies’ then focus on your own personal weapons to overcome them. 

I’m clearly not advocating guns or machetes.

I want you to think about what you can use, or do, to help you with the things that make you anxious.

Come up with your own ideas, remember what already works to help you feel calm and confident so you can best cope on that first day.

Some examples are breathing techniques, taking a pause to drink from a water bottle or having a photograph of a happy time in your pocket.

Then think about these light-hearted questions and incorporate them to your video game:

  • What is going to be most fun at school?
  • Who have you missed the most?
  • Who is the best teacher?
  • Which class will be the best?

Imagine your video game school. Imagine doing those things. Imagine seeing those people. Imagine the fun, laughs and friendship.

The Solution #2

Ask the Right Questions

When you’re sat around the dinner table together, it is the perfect time to create a positive mental template about school.

Do this by asking the right questions. 

There is no need to focus on the scary stuff – remember things like the rooms will be the same size, there will be the same furniture.

Lots will be familiar.

If there is a lack of information, our brain prefers to fill in the gaps with negativity so don’t let it. Consciously fill in the gaps positively by creating positive pictures – reframing being back at school.

Look ahead, even past the first day of school, and discuss over dinner:

  • What are the 3 things you are most looking forward to most about school?
  • Who have you missed most? Why?
  • Who will be the person who is the least happiest about going back to school? Why? How could you make that day for them a better experience?
  • How will we know when you get home that today went ok? What will we notice about you?

Solution Focused questions like this encourage you to look ahead in a positive way.

They help put school back into perspective.

They remind the young person to look out for each other, promoting a sense of community on their return to school.

Here to Help

If you need some support, as a parent or younger person, to see the positives and achieve calmness and confidence about school then please reach out – I can help.

I would be delighted to help stop your brain going into survival mode any longer, because it’s time for you to Lead a Better Life.

You can get in touch or book a FREE Tell Me More Call or Discovery Consultation online.

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Here are some other Back to School After Lockdown resources which you may also find helpful:

Young Minds