How you can support your child as they return to school

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger

The reduction in face-to-face learning in schools as well as social interactions owing to the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have an impact on children's mental health.

Here are some tips from a mental health specialist about what you can do and how you can support your children as they return to school from Monday.

You're important

Jane Caro, the Associate Director of Programmes at The Mental Health Foundation, said parents have a "very important role" in supporting their children.

She said: "You're really important to your son or daughter and even if they are a teenager and they may give you the very strong message that they don't need you, you're important and you have a very important role in supporting them."

Ms Caro urges parents to approach their child or children in a way that will make them feel comfortable and relaxed to talk to.

She said: "You don't want to impose yourself on a young person in a way that they are uncomfortable with, you want to do it sensitively in a way that they will feel comfortable with.

"Give them the strong message that you are here and available and would like to talk to them about going back to school because you realise what a big deal it is - what a big deal it is that they've had this big gap and now making this transition back."

"So now, you're making yourself available and telling them it's important to talk to them about it," she added.

Let them know it's OK to feel whatever they are feeling

Ms Caro said: "My third tip is that when you talk about it, you have to let them know that it's perfectly ok to feel whatever they are feeling about returning to school."

"So it might be that they're full of enthusiasm, and hopeful and energised and that's great. However, they equally might be feeling quite worried, quite anxious, quite scared.

"All sorts of quite difficult feelings, quite angry maybe they don't want to go back to school.

"And you need to give them the strong message that there's nothing wrong in feeling that way.

"Don't dismiss what they are feeling, acknowledge it! And it's normal for all of us to feel a anxious, a little bit worried, a bit of anxiety when we're going back."

She continued: "We as adults, as we return to work for example, may well be feeling very similarly, so giving them that strong message that it's ok to feel that way.

Having a routine and structure is important

Ms Caro said: "Routine and structure might seem like quite practical small things but they're actually really important.

"We know how important sleep is to all of our mental health and if we get ourselves back into a routine where we are waking up at a reasonable time and with enough time to get packed, to get dressed to go to school to be there on time - it's really important.

"And the same with bedtimes - the same with being mindful in not using your screen, you know 10 minutes before you are trying to get to sleep.

"Try and get that young person back into a routine, you can help them with that and it's best to start that as soon as possible."

Stay in the present as much as possible

"All of us at the moment are dealing with a considerable amount of uncertainty and it's very easy for us to get caught up in anxiety and thinking a long way ahead and thinking what might happen and what if this and what if that?

"So my fifth tip is to try and encourage that young person to stay in the present as much as possible."

Ms Caro said it's best to "try not to think too far ahead", before adding, "let's try and think about the day that is coming up or the week ahead and focus on the things we can control - not the things that are out of our control."

Check in

Once your young person has returned to school check in with them periodically.

"You may decide to agree on a time of the week, for instance a Friday, to have a little sit down and chat to find out how things went."

Ms Caro urges parents to "check in" with their children, warning "don't assume because they seem to be ok that everything is fine, ask them how they are doing, what have been the high points, the low points, and what they have struggled with".

"Just keep an eye on them, so it might be that they make that transition back smoothly immediately but it is very often that it will take two or three weeks to adjust accordingly."

"However, I would say that after three or four weeks, if you have some concerns about the young person and they are not behaving in a way you would expect them to behave - if they are maybe not eating... if they are struggling to sleep, if they are not enjoying the things they would normally enjoy - or they are not socially interacting with their friends like they would normally do then at that point it's really good to have a conversation with someone at their school or with your GP to get some advice."

Who to contact if you or someone you know needs help

  • Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at

  • Mind also offer mental health support between 9am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. You can call them on 0300 123 3393 or text them on 86463. There is also lots of information available on their website.

  • Campaign Against Living Miserably's (CALM) helpline and webchat are open from 5pm until midnight, 365 days a year. Call CALM on 0800 58 58 58 or chat to their trained helpline staff onlineNo matter who you are or what you're going through, it's free, anonymous and confidential.