It’s a difficult thing to ignore but the fact is that now the summer is over, school anxiety is, no doubt, on a lot of our minds. With the return to school and the beginning of a new academic year fast approaching for many students in the UK it should be a time of relief for parents and children alike.
But in actual fact, with the Covid-19 pandemic looming over all of us and the risk of a rising Coronavirus infection rate, there is an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty and anxiety in children and parents surrounding this for many families.
This year families have been going through very challenging times resulting in a perpetual emotional roller-coaster due to various factors coming into play together to cause major disruptions to family life. It has resulted in a difficult set of circumstances and changes to navigate.
With the unprecedented lockdown and school closures across the country, most families were left stranded and anxious in terms of childcare issues, causing high distress to parents and children alike.
Some parents still had to go to work during lockdown such as keyworkers, having to juggle the requirements of the workplace with childcare arrangements. Other parents had to adapt to new ways of working such as working from home, often with their children playing around in the background, having to invent new routines.
Families were separated so that grandparents had to deal with isolation and the lack of physical contact with their families, and so, were also not able to help out by picking up children from school or looking after them to avoid risks of Covid-19 contagion.
In a sense, people were emotionally starved and prone to anxiety during this time.
How Lockdown Has Left Many People Feeling Anxious & Worried
All these new, out of the ordinary situations, have put a strain on people’s mental health, resulting in an overall increase in anxiety and worry.
Unemployment increased with many people losing their jobs or on furlough to add economic stresses to families, many of these were already living in precarious situations. National figures show that domestic violence increased during lockdown and also calls to children’s helplines.
While the road back from lockdown appeared to be happening over the summer some people have been left worrying about the future and how they’ll manage if another lockdown is imposed in the near future.
Children’s mental health has suffered greatly during lockdown, not able to see their friends, being cooped up at home most days, having to be homeschooled by parents who might not have a good command of the English language, adding to the growing presence among families around school anxiety.
Inequality came to the surface as some children from poorer backgrounds didn’t have the necessary equipment for home learning, such as computers and other gadgets which could result in poorer achievements, therefore, widening the gap. Some children suffered from hunger as they were deprived of the one-or-two meals x day that they could eat at school.
Coping With Back To School Anxiety
So there are mixed feelings in regards to school re-opening, on one side it will be greatly welcomed by most in order to restore routines to family life and on the other side parents will be feeling anxious about their children going back to school, and about the safety that the school’s environments can provide.
Other situations that will cause school anxiety are that it will prove very difficult for staff to manage social distancing in both primary and secondary schools, and therefore some parents might decide not to send their children back, especially if shielding as deemed vulnerable and at risk. Some children might be feeling anxious about going back to school and not wanting to return, others will be eager to see their friends.
Parents could prepare their children to return to school by reducing the anxiety by talking to the child about their worries, discussing the return to school, normalising the feelings but still acknowledging these exist; possibly contact the school to find out who the new teacher will be or how the layout will look like.
Some schools offer child counselling to support children emotionally in expressing their fears around school anxiety in a safe space.
Parents also should look after their emotional wellbeing and self-care is important as ever if not more as new coping mechanisms are developed and integrated. Talking to friends or a stranger/therapist might help to alleviate stress and loneliness, practicing regular exercise, mindfulness, mediation could improve mood and fitness.
For the moment families will continue facing uncertainty and possibly having to take tough decisions in the next few months as restrictions might continue until a vaccine is found. For more school information visit GOV.UK for their guidance on the full opening of schools.
Stay strong, stay safe, keep a positive mind, and lighten the load.
By Alessia Vignali (BACP): Integrative Counsellor & Coaching
A little bit about me: “During lockdown as therapist the way of working changed from face to face to tele-therapy that also limited the relationship between therapist and client with a screen as barrier in between, now replaced by wearing masks, hiding some of the facial expressions and body language.
From my work with NHS I have keyworked client in distress due to lockdown presenting with worsened mental health and suicidal ideation, increased substance misuse as a way to cope with boredom and personal difficulties such as unemployment or homelessness.
As an Integrative Counseller and Coach I work with both emotional issues such as anxiety, depression, panic attacks, relationship issues, suicidal ideation, DV. If clients wishes I can also work with their plans for the future, to help reinvent themselves in terms of career and education or look at future options or opportunities. Sometimes it’s important to find a safe space to talk to somebody about fears and worries as these could be overwhelming at this time and don’t want to burden family and friends who might also struggle with their own mental health. In times like this sometimes talking to a stranger might help to lighten the load.”