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Top 10 tips for supporting children back to school

After taking on the challenge of homeschooling, parents and guardians are now facing a new challenge: ensuring their children feel safe, supported and ready to go back to school.

Emma from Eastleigh shares her top 10 tips for supporting the wellbeing and emotional health of the kids ahead of the re-opening of schools on 8th March.

1. A good nights sleep 

Try to get back to a normal bedtime routine. Lockdown in my family meant bedtimes have been all over the place, but it's never too late to fix, so start now! My girls listen to classical music to help them settle and having a bath before bed can help, too.

Sleep helps us all so much. It's easy to forget that sleep has such a cyclical effect on our mental health... especially for our children who might be worried about something as big as going back to school. Here's is a good reminder of the importance of sleep:

The cycle of sleep
2. Limit the news around your children

So much changes all the time and the kids absorb everything. My girls started asking me about daily Covid deaths, which I did not feel was healthy. We are more mindful now and try and catch up on news on our phones or after bedtime.

3. The night before school

Being organised helps and helps everyone sleep better, knowing theres not stress awaiting us the next day. I make packed lunches, get the uniforms out and plates ready on the work top for breakfast. 

On a Monday, my youngest often needs lots more time with me. When I am organised, I can give her more attention while also not getting stressed myself before we leave and I have to go to work.

4. Exercise and fresh air... even if it’s raining!

Getting to the park for a walk or a bike ride or scooters really helps. It naturally helps to relieve stress and helps them settle better at night. It also helps to get away from screens for a bit.

Research tells us that stepping outdoors for as little as two hours each week is enough to help us feel better. You can get the kids to have a mindful moment and really connect with nature, using a skill like this:

outdoor mindfulness game

5. Hugs

So simple, but so important right now, especially as they cannot get that from other family members or friends.

6. Gratitude

I have started to practice gratitude myself and have also had the girls just telling me some positive things that have happened or what they are grateful for. Here's an activity for younger children that might help:

7. Talk to other parents 

Do you have friends you can speak to? How are their children coping? Can you support each other or share ideas? I've found setting up parents Whatsapp groups really helpful.

8. Arts and crafts

It might not be fancy, but getting creative is a nice way of passing the time and taking minds off worries. It can be drawings or colouring for home, or pictures to take to school when they return.

9. Reasure and normalise

I’m always telling my girls that it is normal to feel anxious at the moment as the world is so different. I also remind them of how far we have come since last year. 

Usually we try to have a catch up chat after dinner so anything that is bothering them has been dealt with. It's useful to communicate that having worries is normal and that talking about them, rather than keeping them inside, make them easier to deal with. 

This Worry Tree technique can be really helpful for identifying the things that we can overcome and the things outside of our control:

the worry tree
10. Talk to the school

My youngest was having some difficulties last year and the school have been on board with supporting us through this and reassuring her. Her teacher checks in with her a bit more now and she has been offered 1:1 support. She is feeling better at the moment, but it's an important safety net for us all to know is there, just in case she needs it later on.

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