The ultimate guide to navigating back to school

Going back to school tomorrow after an extended break will be nerve-wracking for many children and parents alike.  

Families are not only faced with the usual struggles of getting their children back into a routine and organising their uniforms but now they have to contend with Covid-19 restrictions and re-establishing relationships with old friends. 

Many parents may be left feeling worried about how they can guide their children through the 'new norm' at school, from making sure they properly social distance to helping them catch up with school work. 

Femail has spoken to experts to get tips and advice for how parents can assist their children with navigating the changes in their new school lives.

As children get used to the 'new norm' at school, it can also be a daunting time for parents who may be anxious about how they can best help their little ones adjust. Picture: Stock

As children get used to the 'new norm' at school, it can also be a daunting time for parents who may be anxious about how they can best help their little ones adjust. Picture: Stock

Navigating friendships

Research conducted by communication company No Isolation - which aims to reduce loneliness and self isolation - found 76 per cent of parents and carers are worried that their children are suffering from loneliness as a result of lockdown.

While children may be excited to socialise and move away from the loneliness they may be feeling, there may also be some who are worried about how they communicate with their friends as the pandemic continues to restrict who we are able to see and how we behaviour around people outside of our households. 

Returning to school after the long summer holidays may now seem scary and leave them wondering if friendships will have survived the summer. 

Childcare expert and founder of Nipperbout  Janthea Brigden said: 'Even in ‘normal’ times, renewing friendships can feel awkward as children digest these changes. 

'This year brings the additional possibility of loss or trauma - parents losing jobs, grandparents dying, marital splits.  

To tackle the fear "What if no one likes me?", she suggests encouraging children to write a list of all the people who they know like them, including their family, and giving it to them to take to school. 

She said: 'Just having that in their pocket to touch occasionally or read in the playground, may help.'

If the children are struggling to get along after such a long time apart, Ms Brigden advises setting up a meet up in parks or gardens after school. 

'Bringing everyone into a different environment to socialise often defuses arguments,' she said.    

Parental engagement expert Dr Kathy Weston advises giving children 'sentence starters' to help them start up conversations with their peers in the lunch queue or in the playground.

'Simple sentences like "What year are you in?" "What school were you in before?", "Is this your first year here?" can really give children the confidence to take that first step. '

If the children are struggling to get along after such a long time apart, Ms Brigden advises setting up a meet up in parks or gardens after school. Picture: Stock

If the children are struggling to get along after such a long time apart, Ms Brigden advises setting up a meet up in parks or gardens after school. Picture: Stock

She also suggests encouraging children to make others feel included but not to put pressure on children to make friends either. 

Parents may also be worried about their children's social skills when they get back into the classroom as they have had limited time with other young children and may have forgotten how to share. 

To tackle the issue, Innovate UK created the Embers the Dragon School Readiness platform which aims to support children from the earliest stages of their development and encourage social skills.  

The expert behind the campaign Emma Selby said: 'Encouraging turn taking behaviour through play can help warm up some of those rusty social skills. 

'Board games at home can be one way of doing this or my personal favourite is a game of Balloon Keepy Up – it encourages turn taking, team work and problem solving but is also social-distancing friendly.'

Anxiety

As well as worrying if their friendships will be different when they walk through the gates on their first day, children may also feel anxious about the 'new norm' in the classroom. 

New research this week revealed a quarter of parents admit their children have anxieties about going back to normal activities since the pandemic. 

The findings, from cleaning products company ACE, paint a worrying picture for many parents who will naturally fear for their children's physical and mental wellbeing when going back to school. 

Natural parenting expert Angela Spencer suggests limiting how much news children absorb every day could help reduce their anxieties. 

'The last time the world faced something as disruptive and worrying as this, the only exposure we had was a radio to listen to that gave one briefing a day,' she said.

'Now, the news is unavoidable and children are bombarded by it 24/7. Whether it’s the radio at home, TV or even the phones that many young children have, its unavoidable. 

'It’s understandably all we are talking about and it can be easy to forget that little ears can hear and feel our emotions from us. 

'So first of all, limit little ones exposure to the news and don’t talk about the situation in front of them either. Let children know it’s okay to talk to you about anything that is worrying them.'

The best-selling author also has also written a book, titled The Worries, which aims to help young children handle their fears. 

Former headteacher Andrew Hammond, of Discovery Education also suggests children may be feeling anxious about leaving their parents behind after such a long time together. 

He advises parents with children who are exceedingly anxious about returning could speak to the school about a possible staggered return, allowing them to get used to it in small increments. 

Simple or personalised? Guidance on what kind of mask to get your children for their first days back 

Secondary school pupils will have to wear masks to school when they return next week after a government U-turn last week. 

With just days to go before children return, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson last week said face coverings will be compulsory in the communal areas of schools covered by local lockdowns.

A decision on whether to wear masks in other schools will be left to individual heads. 

Some parents have also shared their desire for smaller children to wear masks and in England and Wales children over the age of 11 have to wear masks on public transport.

Here, FEMAIL reveals the best masks for your children, from simple colours to match their school uniform to personalised coverings so they don't get mixed up.

Marks & Spencer has a great deal on school face masks, selling a pack of five adjustable kids' face coverings in plain colours for less than £10.

Marks & Spencer has a great deal on school face masks, selling a pack of five adjustable kids' face coverings in plain colours for less than £10.

PLAIN COLOUR TO MATCH UNIFORM   

With the rules around coverings constantly changing, some schools may insist on plain masks to match uniform rules. 

Marks & Spencer has a great deal on school face masks, selling a pack of five adjustable kids' face coverings in plain colours for less than £10. 

They also sell the pack in pastel and patterned colours for less strict schools, or when children need to wear a mask in the evening or at weekends.  

PERSONALISED

With hundreds of pupils at school, personalised masks will stop your child's getting mixed up with someone else in class.

Prezzybox offer photo-printing onto masks form £9.99, for a unique design while various sellers on Etsy offer monogrammed masks on a black or navy design for a simpler look. They start at £14.99 for a pack of two. 

Snapfish also allow a fully personalised designs, with both photos and text from £9.99.

Prezzybox offer photo-printing onto masks form £9.99

Etsy offer monogrammed masks on a black or navy design for a simpler look. They start at £14.99 for a pack of two

Prezzybox offer photo-printing onto masks form £9.99 (left), for a unique design while various sellers on Etsy offer monogrammed masks on a black or navy design for a simpler look. They start at £14.99 for a pack of two (right)

ANTIBACTERIAL 

Lloyd's are selling children's face covering with antibacterial fabric treatment, which are also water repellent and washable up to 20 washes, which is £7.99 for a pack of four, which are currently on offer for buy one get one half price. 

The mask comes in four child friendly designs and is hand and machine washable.

Boots also offer an adjustable facemask for all ages for £10. Made by the Body Doctor, the mask uses skin friendly, patented, Polygiene technology, which does not interfere with skins natural bacterial flora.

Lloyd's are selling children's face covering with antibacterial fabric treatment, which are also water repellent and washable up to 20 washes, which is £7.99 for a pack of four, which are currently on offer for buy one get one half price

Lloyd's are selling children's face covering with antibacterial fabric treatment, which are also water repellent and washable up to 20 washes, which is £7.99 for a pack of four, which are currently on offer for buy one get one half price

PATTERNED

Catering for any age, The Lion Sparkles customers with a penchant for something unique will find just that when browsing

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