Finally, schools are returning! There is no doubt that there is a sense of deep relief for many parents; remote learning hasn’t been easy for many, very challenging for some and trying to juggle work and other children has sometimes felt nothing short of a nightmare, so the return to school feels like we should be celebrating the end of these struggles!
But, whilst we as parents might know that in the long run school is very much needed in our lives, that our boys need the social interaction, that they need their teachers to guide them through their learning, some of our boys aren’t feeling quite so positive about the return. And some are genuinely very worried.
Anxiety seems to be running high. Your child may or may not be able to verbalise or label how they feel. But you may have noticed some of the following behaviours;
- Withdrawn from family
- Snappy or quick to tears
- Mood swings, whether this is crying or angry outbursts
- Addictive behaviour towards their phones and devices
- Easily irritated or flappable. Findings things that seem small to you difficult stressful
- Finding it difficult to make decisions
- Lacking motivation
- Gut symptoms – stomach aches, or feeling sick
- Unable to sleep or sleeping too much or sleeping at the wrong time
- Cyclical thinking – going over the same things over and over.
It is easy to get frustrated, especially when they are making a big deal over things that seem tiny to you. Or not getting the most basic things done due to procrastination or anxiety about doing it. But they have had so much to deal with, so much done to them out of their control and now they are expected to slip back into a life they used to have when they are changed by the experience they’ve lived.
We know that young people who spend more than 3 hours on screens per day are more likely to suffer from anxiety, yet they have had no option; not only has all schooling been on a screen, it has been the only way to make a connection with their friends. But the anxiety remains, regardless of the very good reasons.
They are going back into social situations that have changed and morphed over lockdown – maybe they haven’t stayed in touch with many people at all, maybe they have felt left out, maybe they preferred communicating online and feel they’ve almost forgotten how to be in a group of friends, maybe they have overshared online and feel they now have to face people in person.
Then we add in COVID and the risk they might feel, especially if living with someone vulnerable – a huge responsibility. Things will be different again when they go back, and when we’ve been forced into these stressful situations our minds and bodies are in fight or flight – am I safe? Continually assessing their surroundings, jumpy. Our adrenal glands are working overtime, detecting a threat. They might even feel the physical symptoms of this: shaky, sweaty, sick, weak or heart pounding and breathless.
What can we all do to help? The good news is – lots!
But in the meantime, here are some really simple, free things that everyone can do to help:
How to be helpful
None of the above will work if it is simply instructions or harshly enforced rules. At this age, and at this time, they need a sense of control over their lives more than ever. Sit down and talk, negotiate, explain you can see they are struggling and that you want to help, go through the list above and see if you can negotiate a better way to live for the next few weeks while you all manage the transition back to school.
Just lastly, if you feel that the anxiety and behaviour has reached a worrying stage, that you’re concerned in any way for their safety, please get in touch with their GP and of course let the school know. If you feel they need some counselling, the GP can guide you towards that and support you and discuss with you other options.