When children return to school this week, many of them will not have stepped foot inside a school for 5 whole months. Whether they are returning to a new class or even a new school, they will all be returning to a new normal.

Dr Julie Smith, Clinical Psychologist and expert in mental health is working with Start-Rite to create a seven-point action plan to help parents enable a calm transition back to school in September and spot behaviours that might show their child is anxious, but not sharing their concerns.

What are the psychological effects of COVID-19 on children?

Research from Start-Rite has revealed that 38% of 6-11-year-olds are worried about the new social distancing rules at school. They are worried about not being able to be close to their friends and what might happen if they get the new procedures wrong. 37% of 6-11-year-olds are worried about the virus.

Dr Julie Smith, Clinical Psychologist and expert in mental health with 1 million social media followers across Tik Tok and Instagram, said: “The research illustrates the significant psychological effect the pandemic is having on children. As parents, there are things we can do to support them.”

Kate Tansley, CEO of Start-Rite Shoes, said: “We want to support families through this challenging time and help ease the transition back to school in September. Children’s healthy development and wellbeing drives everything we do. We constantly strive to listen to and understand children, so we can design and develop best in class school shoes that will keep kids comfortable all day long and help them to be the best they can be.”

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How to spot anxiety in children

While some children are able to express their worries and fears, others are not. A child who is feeling anxious may also present as unusually irritable or angry. They may have trouble sleeping. When faced with something that triggers the anxiety they may complain of a stomach ache or feeling sick. They may be more tearful than normal, but not be sure why.

If you think your child may be anxious about the return to school, here are a few tips on how to support them.

Make time

Set aside just ten minutes each day to talk with your child one to one and listen to anything your child may want to share. Ask open questions, such as “What do you think about…” and “how do you feel about…” Make sure this is a quiet time when your child knows they have your undivided attention. Even if your child does not talk about their worries, give them this special time with you to talk about anything they choose.

Validate their feelings

If your child does express worries and anxiety about school, validate that by letting them know that you are listening and not attempting to correct or dismiss how they feel. This communicates to the child that this is a safe space to talk and express themselves and that their feelings matter to you.

Normalise

Reflect that many children will be feeling this way and that it is understandable and normal. Big changes can trigger big feelings. That is ok.

The feeling is temporary

New things often feel scary at first. Let your child know that the anxious feeling does calm over time, once they get back into a routine.

Help them find a focus

If your child is anxious on that first day, guide them to focus on what they need to do. For example, say ‘hi’ to your friends, hang up your bag, find a seat.

Reassurance

A number of children may start to worry about contamination. As parents, we can reassure them that their only job is to follow the guidelines that the teacher sets out. It is the job of the grown-ups to concern themselves with the virus. The children only need to focus on following the rules and having fun being kids.

Be prepared

The first day back can provoke anxiety for many children. That is normal, but something we can do as parents to ease that process is to prepare. School mornings can be rushed and stressful for parents and children. For a child who is worried about school, this can increase their distress. Allow some extra time in the morning to help reduce everyone’s stress levels.

Check out Start-Rite’s dedicated School Hub for more information on how you can support your child returning to school.

Looking after your child from head to toe

Give your child the best start to the academic year with a pair of Start-Rite school shoes. Start-Rite’s shoes are available in whole, half, and multi-width fittings with targeted flexibility that allows for natural movement with growing room guaranteed.

Every pair in the back to school range has been designed and tested to withstand the demands of everyday school life. Start-Rite shoes offer the ultimate in comfort and durability. To shop school shoes you can rely on, click here.

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