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Returning to school - A guide for parents following Covid-19 restrictions

Posted on 2 June 2020 by Pippa McClounan


A helpful guide to preparing children with TS for the return to school following Covid-19 restrictions

You will all have had different experiences of school over the last 3 months. For some of you it has meant the task of having your children at home with you 24/7 and being expected to home school them with varying support from your schools. There may also have been the added pressure of parents having to work from home and this can sometimes feel like a near on impossible task! For others it has meant having no choice but to put your children in school due to being keyworkers and having the worry of the risks they may be exposed to. Some children will have been very happy with these circumstances and some will have found these changes very confusing and difficult to manage. Needless to say, it’s been a very anxiety provoking time for both children and parents.

Many children have worries but we know that children with TS can suffer terribly with anxiety which can be very difficult to deal with and will undoubtedly be exacerbated at this time. If your child has an EHCP then they may well have already been attending school for some time if their needs were able be safely met in the school environment. Many of our children may be experiencing feelings other than anxiety and possibly experiencing a sense of great loss. Loss of structure, routine, opportunity, freedom and friendships to name but a few. This may present in a lot of anger and resentment that can all trigger anxiety.

On Sunday 10th May the Government announced that schools will be opening their doors to more children and from 1st June some children were allowed back to school. These being children from early years, Year One, Year 6 and Year 10. It may be that for many of our children a more graduated approach is needed to returning to school so it could be that they do not start back full time straight away. For some children this may mean that they will not be returning to school until their next academic year and may mean they will have been away from the school environment for nearly 6 months by the time they start back in September.

Here at Tourettes Action, we want to offer you some support in recognising children’s fears about going back to school and identify ways in which we can best address these fears. They may be worried about going back, and may even refuse, and be unsure about why they feel this way and unable to vocalise reasons for their feelings. Some children may show some negative behaviours or moods in reaction to this time and it is best to try and see these behaviours as a communication difficulty rather than ‘bad’ behaviour. Here are a few ideas that you could discuss with your child:

What fears/worries could my child be having about returning to school?

  • Things being different and uncertain
  • Concerns about the fun parts of school not going to happen
  • Worries about friendships – not being able to be in the same class as friends
  • Managing social distance
  • Separation anxiety – being away from home/parents
  • Possible transition to new class/school
  • Academic pressure – catching up
  • Catching the virus

One thing is for certain, school will not look like it did before and children are going to have to get used to a new ‘normal’ very quickly which can in itself create huge anxiety. There is a saying that ‘The anxious child is not a learning child’, so it’s important our children are ready to go back to school and we prepare them as much as can otherwise it could be a detrimental exercise.

How can we best address these fears/worries?

  • Set time aside and give opportunities to normalise all these uncertainties by talking about them, but limit this and move on so not to exacerbate worries
  • Be alert to assumptions and misinformation so you can correct inaccuracies and confusion
  • Talk about and practice social distancing and what this may look like for them at school
  • Focus on the positives
  • Give time for friendships to reconnect
  • Validate their emotions
  • Trust – give time for your child to establish a relationship with their teacher
  • Consider a graduated phased return to school
  • Talk to the teacher before going back in order to find helpful strategies
  • Ask school what steps they have taken to support trauma and mental health of the children
  • Be flexible and supportive in realising this may not be straight forward
  • Treat the return to school as another transition and give time to adapt to change
  • Allow extra time in the mornings to get ready for school so you have plenty of time to talk
  • Give a clear routine for your child to follow
  • Give lots of praise often, as every small step is a huge achievement for them at this time
  • Help your child see the things that they can control
  • Accept your child will be overwhelmed and exhausted so allow ‘down time’
  • Don’t make promises
  • As well as discussing what will be different, make time to talk about the things that will be the same
  • Set some ‘what if’ questions and make sure they know who to go to if they need these answered at school. Some resources to help you make these can be seen here
  • Reduce change and disruption at home and try to keep a calm routine after school
  • Teach relaxation and visualisation skills

What will school look like?

  • Start and finish times may be staggered to avoid contact with other families
  • A possible change of location for drop off and pick up
  • You may need to leave siblings with a family member if possible to avoid congestion
  • Your child may be welcomed by a different member of staff to their usual teacher
  • Your child may not be in a class with their friends and may be on a desk on their own
  • Your child will have to practice social distancing with their peers and teachers
  • Class sizes will be smaller
  • Morning and lunch breaks will be staggered and at different times
  • There may well be a one-way system in the corridors
  • The classroom may look different with a different table and chair lay out and they may have access to limited resources
  • Teachers and possibly children may be wearing masks
  • Windows will be kept open with a massive emphasis on keeping everything clean
  • You may be asked to provide your child with a clean set of clothes each day
  • Children may be asked to keep personal items at home such as pencil cases and laptops and these items will now be provided by school

All schools will be slightly different so make sure to look on your school’s website for more specific information. I’m sure many of you will have lots of questions about how your child will catch up, where their gaps in learning will be and what SEN provisions will look like on the return to school, so don’t be afraid to talk to your child’s school so that things are as clear as possible for you and your child.

Remember you are your child’s only advocate and schools will be overrun with lots of issues on the return to school. Schools will be doing their best but don’t be afraid to not send your child back until you are sure it is the right thing for them and you feel that their needs have been considered.

This is a useful link to a social story you can use with your child to help them understand about going back to school

Lastly, try not to worry or focus too much on all the changes. We must look forward to this being a positive time for your family and as hard as it may sound, I’m sure we will all look back in years to come and find lots of positive things that have come from such a stressful and uncertain time.

If you have any specific questions or concerns about your child and would like some support or advice, please contact TA Education Manager Lucy Toghill at

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