What can parents of secondary schoolers do to support their children to safely transition back to school?
In the fourth episode of MCRI’s new podcast series – Parenting in the age of coronavirus, internationally-recognised child health researchers, and adolescent psychologist and psychiatrist from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Centre for Adolescent Health – Professor George Patton and Dr Lisa Mundy – provide tips on positive change, creating new routines and dealing with disruption in school.
COVID-19 is changing things for everyone. As we start to open back up, the transition back to school, work, and visiting friends and family could present its own challenges.
Transitions are tricky. Life changes can be stressful for everyone. The move back to school is a new transition, and it’s big and complex. It’s crucial to keep the conversations going with your child. Check in and listen to how they’re feeling and thinking.
Practically, it’s also good to think about how to get back into the swing of remembering all the kit that needs to come to school. Especially as a lot of us have gotten used to later bedtimes and sleep-ins, remembering everything in the morning could take some adjustment!
Different ages, different stages. Younger adolescents had generally only just made the transition to high school when everything shut down. That created enormous disruption for developing new peer groups, getting to know teachers and creating new routines.
For some of those who were new to high school at the start of 2020, that transition process may need to start again to build the connections to the new school. Emphasise the many positives that school has to offer, including connection to friends, sport and the arts.
Many older adolescents in their final years of high school are feeling particular challenges from the disruption to a high-pressure time. Work to re-establish routines for older adolescents and make sure to regularly check-in, especially for those who’ve struggled a lot in this time away.
Expect changes. Young people are returning to a school that’s different to what it was before. They will have to adjust to new routines and processes, including a lot more emphasis on hand hygiene and hand sanitiser. Many schools will be attempting physical distancing in the classrooms and common areas of the school.
For adolescents, the physical distancing requirements will mean changes to how they interact with peers, and still develop the social and emotional skills of adolescence.
Positive change? For some adolescents, this life-changing disruption could lead to life-changing opportunities. It provides a challenge to young people and parents to stay nimble, think creatively about how things are changing, and think big about how you and your young person could thrive in the new world. It’s essential not to underestimate the creativity and solution-finding skills of our young people.
Missing social milestones. For a lot of older adolescents, the final years of high school mean school formals and other social milestones. The pandemic has meant that these events, and others, have not been able to happen. If your child is feeling particularly upset by this, or any other loss from COVID-19, it’s important to keep open-ended conversations going, and to try to wrap up conversations on a positive note. Encourage them to talk to their friends about what they’re feeling too.
If you would like more support, there’s a range of online resources and GPs are still holding appointments, via telehealth. They’re the best first stop for mental health support.
Don’t hesitate to reach out and seek the support you need.