children in a classroom

Return to School and Refusals

children in a classroom

A lot of parents have been in touch to get a bit of help and guidance around the phased return to school. So, firstly, I would like to reassure you that you are NOT alone. There have been quite a few incidents of school refusal and tummy pains, and many upset children (and therefore upset Mams and Dads).

It can be difficult enough during “normal” times to settle back into school but throw the confusion of Covid into the mix and we have an unprecedented situation. The word “overwhelming” has become an increasingly common word in everyday situations. It can be mind-boggling to know what is the right thing to do for your child. We speak to them, reassure them, sometimes even bribe them! Sometimes tempers might flare. It can be so frustrating for a parent.
So now, let’s take a look at things from a child s point of view.

Remember, they have been listening – in the background – to endless conversations and news updates and conversations around Covid, which can be very scary for an adult, so imagine how it is for a child.

They have missed the “normality” of school days, school plays, activities, trips, and all the wonderful social side of school life.

They have hugely missed the interaction with their friends and classmates, and yet, I am hearing many children say they are feeling a bit awkward at the thought of being around their friends after such a long time, and they can’t understand why.

The things they were once sure of have suddenly become uncertainties. Also, a big part for some children, is doubting their academic ability – are they at the same level as everyone else, what about their spellings and Maths – are they behind the others?

So how can we as parents help?

The main thing we can do is to talk to them on their level. We can keep them informed about what’s going on, but we need to use language and words they understand.
We also really need to listen. We need to hear what it is that is upsetting them, and instead of jumping in with reassurances like “You have nothing to worry about” – which is a natural parenting instinct – we need them to know that we hear their concerns. They are very real to them.

This is validation and this is key!

  • Let your child know you notice their feelings and are there to help them manage them.
  • Let them know you realize these feelings are real and scary to your child.
  • Acknowledge them – “I know you are finding this difficult – what can I do to help?”

They need our help as parents to regulate these feelings and make sense of it. Help and support of parents is vital.
Very often, a child s anxiety manifests itself as physical. Many of us will have experienced our child s “pain in the tummy” the night before a test. Whilst we often believe this pain to be imagined or made up, it is useful to remember that our minds and bodies are totally linked and connected, so if you have something worrying you, you will feel it in your body. This is real because they have created it. Again, don’t dismiss it – acknowledge it, validate their problem and ask how you can help, what you can do to help them to make the pain go away. Allow them to have the responsibility – don’t rush in to fix it for them. Talk it out – get them to figure out what is driving this feeling – do they feel unsafe, insecure? Are they uncertain about something?
Only then can they start to deal with the issue at hand.

We can also bring the focus around to the positive things of seeing their friends, engaging in sport and school activities again.
Take the time to check in with them when they get home from school or you get home from work. Are they settling in ok or finding it strange? Remind them you are always there to listen.
Remember, this past year has been a very strange one for all the parents in the world. Please be kind to yourself. Don’t judge yourself or compare your family with someone else’s. We are all individual units. You are doing your best. If you look after yourself and practice self–care, the calming effect will transfer down to your child, creating a happier, calmer atmosphere in your home.

By Michelle O Brien BSc(Hons)Psych; H.Dip. Coun; MIACP

Michelle will be hosting the webinar Managing Your Child’s Anxiety on Monday, March 29th @7pm

Registration is €20 which includes downloadable children’s resources for you to use at home, places are limited.

You will learn:

  • What is Anxiety?
  • Why Learn about Anxiety?
  • What is worry?
  • Understanding why your child’s worry and anxiety is a  good thing and not to be avoided.
  • Why children need to learn about managing anxiety.
  • Practical skills to help children control and manage anxiety.

Sorry This Webinar is SOLD OUT, we will be hosting additional dates next month

Register HERE