Worries about returning to school
Back to school
School is about lessons and so much more!
The impact of Covid and time away from school, friends, and in-class learning has affected families across the country.
Most are back into the school routine but some children and parents feel stressed and anxious about returning to school. For children it can be hard to understand and communicate these feelings of anxiety and worry.
If you or your child is having worries about attending school, please talk it through with the school as they have the expertise to help.
Read on for tips for helping your child return to school.
Communication is key
Talk to your child. Make sure that your child knows that talking to you is a safe space. Find a time to talk to them without any distractions or interruptions so you can give them your full attention.
Conversation starters can help. Try sharing stories or looking at materials such as our Attendance Campaign posts on social media.
Let your child know that their feelings are valid and encourage them to try and explain how they feel.
With younger children you can help your child to name their emotions physically. For example: “When I feel scared, I feel a knot in my tummy. I’m wondering if you may feel scared about going back to school and how that is making you feel.”
Make time to check in with your child daily and check how they are feeling. You can use visuals to support this, like a traffic light, number scale or smiley, straight and sad faces.
Reassure your child
Your child might feel guilty for how they feel, and worried that their feelings will make you angry. Reassure them that their feelings are valid and that it is normal to feel anxiety about the unknown.
Share your own experiences of a time when you felt anxious and explain how you dealt with that situation.
Highlighting the advantages of returning to school can help your child to see the positives. Ask them what they’re excited about when they go back to school.
The benefits of going to school are tenfold. In addition to the long-term benefits of academic success, school also helps children with:
- friendships and social skills
- mental and physical health
- developing other talents and hobbies
Prepare your child
It’s important to prepare your child for their return to school in a way that makes them feel safe and heard.
Share any resources that the school provide to support their return, such as booklets, videos, or website resources.
Discuss what differences they might find when they go back, so that they feel fully prepared.
Try to involve your child in planning for their return to school. For example, include them in school uniform checks, preparing equipment, and ticking off checklists.
Maybe you can provide your child with a visual countdown for their return to school. Like with an advent calendar before Christmas, they can anticipate the event.
Praise your child
Try to recognise when your child is dealing with their emotions and encourage them to do so.
Give them praise that is positive and specific e.g. ‘I can see you’re feeling a bit stressed, well done for staying calm and asking for help.’
When you praise your child, they are more likely to repeat that behaviour in the future.
Check out the support available to you below:
- Young Minds - information and help for parents and carers in supporting their child:
- CBeebies – information and advice for managing anxiety in primary school:
- NHS website: - anxiety in children
- Action for Children – supporting your child – metal health and wellbeing
- East Sussex Local Offer - information for families of children with special needs
- School Health Service – school nurses support for parents and carers
- Open for Parents - parenting support and information for families
- The Anxious Child - booklet for parents and carers:
- Free resources to help anxious children
- Anna Freud Centre return to school toolkit