Our teens are back to school, but things are still far from being back to normal. Find out how you can support your child…
While the return to school is another step in the UK’s recovery from COVID-19, we’re still some way from ‘normality’ in the classrooms. If you have a teen and a younger child in the household, you’ll notice an even starker difference: our secondary school pupils are following much stricter routines and rules than their younger counterparts. Masks, regular weekly COVID-19 tests and staggered lunch breaks are just some of the new regulations our teenagers have had to adapt to – and quickly.
It’s a LOT to take in. Not just for teenagers, but also for parents who are desperate to see their children return to some kind of normality and yet equally anxious to keep them safe from catching this horrible virus. It’s that all-too familiar feeling we’ve had to juggle as parents since that first lockdown announcement. Thankfully, however, the vaccination programme is rolling along successfully and there is finally a real beacon of light and hope at the end of what has been a very long, dark tunnel. Let’s continue to shine a guiding torch for our teens as they return to the rockiest school year of their life…
HIT THE REFRESH BUTTON
OK, so this has been a l-o-o-n-n-g slog. Many of us are mentally exhausted and, quite simply, fed-up of COVID-19 rules, restrictions and boring guidelines. Quick test: hands up if it’s been a while since you sang ‘Happy Birthday’ from beginning to end (twice) whilst scrubbing your hands as methodically as a surgeon preparing for the operating theatre? Guilty, your Honour.
Now is a good time to sit down with your teen and refresh their tired memory on the basics. Good hygiene (lots and lots of handwashing, please), the importance of wearing a mask, regularly sanitising hands… you know the drill. Take a moment to look at your school’s rules, too, as many of them have had to adapt their timetables and school layout to accommodate social-distancing. Knowing what lies in store within the school walls can help to alleviate any stresses or concerns your teen might have about the rules.
TEENS WILL BE TEENS
School staff will be closely regulating traffic and distancing inside the school building but the same can’t obviously be said for pupils who go off-campus during lunch, break or study period. Remind your teen of the importance of maintaining a distance from their friends and others during these times. It can be very easy to slip into old habits of sharing a bottle of juice or play-wrestling with a mate.
Make sure to check-in with your teen a couple of times a week to keep an eye on how they’re coping with everything. A quick “So, how was your day?” at the dinner table is often the most common opener and gives your teen a chance to chat. Encourage your teen to talk to you about anything they’re finding challenging or stressful, no matter how small. We all know this pandemic is an ever-changing landscape and can trigger a huge range of emotions and stresses so it’s important to check in with one another as often as we can.
It might also help to reach out to your child’s school, especially if you have concerns about their mental well-being or are worried that they are not coping with schoolwork. Our teachers have been through a particularly difficult time, too, and know only too well the strain and pressure this past school year has placed on our youngsters.
TESTS, TESTS & MORE TESTS…
Exams may be off the table but there’s a new test in town – regular COVID-19 tests. These are, of course, voluntary, but the government are advising pupils to do regular testing to help in the fight against the virus. It’s perfectly normal for your teen to feel anxious about these tests, especially if they haven’t done one before. Most likely, there will be the usual horror stories flying about the school and on social media… ‘It hurts so bad/I heard someone gagged and vomited/The swab almost touches your brain!’ etc., etc. Dispel the myths and talk to your teen about what exactly is involved with these rapid lateral flow tests to make sure they know exactly what to expect. You can find out more about the tests and order them here, if you need to: https://www.gov.uk/order-coronavirus-rapid-lateral-flow-tests
Encourage your teen to look after their mental and physical well-being. There will no doubt be good and bad days ahead, so it’s more important than ever to get a good night’s sleep and to embrace self-care. Cook a healthy meal with your teen or have a cosy night in front of the TV to make sure they’re taking time to relax and unwind.
If you’re worried that your teen isn’t coping or have serious concerns about their mental or physical health, don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to your GP. Many people are struggling during this pandemic and there are lots of people out there to help. Encourage your teen to talk and be open about how they’re feeling as often as you can and seek more help and guidance if you need it. There’s never any shame in asking for help and there’s a world of support out there.