As schools welcome the return of all pupils, staff are faced with pupils experiencing significant distress, trauma or bereavement, following the Covid-19 lockdown. A recent survey by Young Minds highlights that, 80% of young people agreed that the coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse and 87% agreeing that they had felt lonely or isolated during the lockdown period.

During lockdown less than 2.5% of children attended school and we are facing an unknown level of need. For this ‘Covid Generation’ all pupils will have experienced some degree of trauma and loss, ranging from the loss of close social contact with peers, to grieving for a close family member or living with the fear of infection.

We are all very aware that each of our experiences this year is unique – likewise children in our care are likely to have significantly different and individual experiences of this time. One child may appear ‘untouched’ whilst another has had the core of their family shaken. Current research highlights that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are those we should be particularly concerned about. Social distancing measures will continue to have significant impacts on mental health, with 40% of young people in the Young Minds survey saying that they had not looked for support but were struggling with their mental health.

With schools needing to continue providing unprecedented pastoral support, it is essential that we consider how to go about this. After all, schools are the important secure base from which our children can begin to make sense of these experiences.

Here is some of my key advice for School Staff:

  • Reassure children that feeling anxious or confused is an important and usual part of coping with unprecedented times.
  • Hold in mind a developmental perspective on how children and young people see and understand the world around them. This can make a significant difference to how we can best support a pupil.
  • Stay up to date on current public health advice and how best to explain the pandemic to children and young people
  • Acknowledge the losses that the Covid-19 lockdown and continued social distancing brings. Children will greatly appreciate this, E.G; ‘I realise that it’s been hard that you’ve not been able to play with other children’ and ‘I understand that children can have worries about Coronavirus, is there anything that you would like me to explain?’
  • Stay with routines and keep the child’s life as normal as possible. Being able to play and keep learning are all important aspects of building understanding and resilience.
  • Be emotionally present and able to offer compassionate responses to children, young people and their families.
  • Remember as staff, sharing how we feel is important too – it helps to look after ourselves and develop appropriate coping mechanisms.

With thanks to Zoe Dale for this post.

For more on supporting and responding to traumatised young people, check out our webinar coming up this October.

And finally, some handy links:

Animation & story book explaining coronavirus to children

…and another one here

Back to School on CBBC Newsround

Young Minds Blog on talking to your child about coronavirus

Anxiety tips from Young Minds