The Coronavirus Pandemic has caused much unrest around the world. Our daily lives have changed and the way we socialise has altered. Children are feeling these changes deeply. So, it is important now more than ever, that schools think about the mental health implications caused by Covid-19.
Children will deal with the changes that have happened over the past couple of months differently. Some may be excited to return to school and see their friends again while others may feel anxious or frightened. School life will be different in September, especially for those in boarding schools. Children will struggle with this, so it is important that we have an open conversation about Coronavirus and the current measures in place.
How Can We Keep Students Thinking About Cleanliness?
The prospect of wearing personal protective equipment in schools is terrifying to some children, especially for those who are younger. Their school can feel like a dystopian reality and they can be left feeling isolated and fearful.
So, it is important that schools approach the issues around cleanliness with honesty and open mindedness. If your students are younger, it might be a good idea to introduce regular hand washing times. Make this fun. Get small groups of children to go to the bathroom and wash their hands while singing a song. They will easily forget about why they are washing their hands and they will begin to enjoy it. Get a new student to choose the song each time.
When it comes to social distancing, it can be hard explaining to children why they can’t get too close to their friends. So, again, make this fun. At playtime, or lunchtime, introduce a game of hot lava or make up your own game that could relate to social distancing.
How Do We Speak To Students About Their Mental Health And Covid-19?
It may be a good idea if at the beginning of the school day, or at the end, teachers have an open conversation with their group of students about Coronavirus. This will give students the opportunity to ask any questions and raise any concerns they may have. But, more than this, this will allow children to see that they are not the only ones who are worried. They will see that it is okay to be scared. If teachers and other students express their concerns, this reduces the risk of students feeling isolated.
The last thing any teacher or parent would want is for a child to feel like they have nowhere to turn. Especially in a boarding environment where children are away from their parents. Having an open and honest conversation really will help the mental health of students.
Remind Students Of The Positives
Although returning to school during a global pandemic is hard, students have probably missed the routine, the normality and the ability to see their friends every day.
So, it is important that schools keep students positive by reminding them of the social interaction and normality that they can now have. Most have probably craved it over the past couple of months, but for some it may just take a little more time.
So, How Do Schools Help The Mental Health Of Students As They Return To School?
To help improve the mental health of students during a global pandemic, schools need to approach children with understanding and compassion, as they always do. Keep an open conversation, make complying with new Covid-19 regulations fun and if you fear a child may feel isolated, spend some time with them. Be honest and let them know that it is okay to be apprehensive.
This uncertainty and dystopian reality may be particularly hard for those who are starting a new school in September. So, introduce small support groups or a personal tutor who can help them with their transition. After all, some children will find it hard to make new friends when social distancing is in force.
And finally, be honest with your students. Make sure they know that schools could possibly be closed down once more by the government. Knowing this from the outset will allow them to mentally prepare – thus, reducing the impact on their mental health if this should happen.
For more information on how you can help students returning to school, take a look at Unicef’s advice and guidance.