CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH: Back to school – anxiety over the “new normal”

“Will she be ok? Please tell me she’ll be OK?” It must have been the fifth time I had asked that question within the space of half an hour as I sought reassurance from the medical professionals that my baby daughter would survive. 

They of course couldn’t tell me in the hours following my baby’s resuscitation, that she would survive despite being successfully ventilated. 

Whilst I have tried to reassure my own children, including my youngest daughter who was saved by the NHS after contracting a virus as a newborn, that everything would be OK during this pandemic, I haven’t been able to say until recently when things would be returning to some normality. 

It has been hard enough for us as adults to accept the unknown outcome of the Coronavirus situation let alone the impact on children and young people who often look up to us for direction and reassurance. 

Whilst we have all experienced this pandemic in tandem, the impact on young people’s mental health will be varied, some may have experienced isolation, anxiety and a lack of exercise and social interaction. Some children may have thrived having ‘quality time’ at home or most, I suspect, will have struggled with the ongoing lack of ‘normal’ routine, missed friends and free play. It also depends on home situations that the children are brought up in, some may have been experiencing trauma and a wide array of circumstances. 

The impact on my own daughters’ mental health, who share the same home lives, has also been varied, with one child verbally expressing anxiety about missing school and the pending return that lays before her whilst the other has had waves of anger. 

That said, we’re some of the lucky ones as my children’s school have been extremely supportive, I have also been able to use my background in dance and performing arts to stay connected with the kids and ‘dance out’ what their feeling as a form of therapy and my mum is a visual artist so she has led regular Zoom workshops for young people to stay connected to their friends and family whilst being at home. 

Young people from all walks of life are returning to school with trepidation and lots of parents, like me, will also be worried about the unknown of this “new normal.” I can’t imagine the impact on teacher’s as well who we will turn to to guide us through this first term whilst themselves dealing with changing guidelines and their own personal circumstances.

Schools and learning institutions, like medical professionals, may not be able to guarantee us that our children “will be ok,” I am confident that the new school year will give my children the best chance possible to cope with their mental health during these changing times.

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