While coming out of shielding is something that everyone has been looking forward to, there are also a lot of fears and anxieties about how to adapt to this new world that you haven’t been around in many months.
The protective bubble of staying indoors and not socialising with others is about to end. But how do you cope with it? How do you explain to young children why they can meet others and go back to school? How do you continue to protect yourselves in a world where society may be a lot more relaxed? These are some of the questions that may be going through your minds.
Here we will try to provide advice on how to cope with coming out of shielding in regards to both mental health, emotional wellbeing and practical tips. We will also raise questions that you may need to think about or enquire about with others. These hints come from both CLDF and parents and young people currently going through a similar situation.
Returning to school
Ensure you are aware of the school’s processes and policies to protect children returning to school. Those who have children in the shielding list may want to have discussions directly with the school about what, if any, precautions are in place for those children who are extremely vulnerable to the virus.
It is worth noting that many schools may be using a school bubble approach which means reduction of social interactions between classes and year groups and staggering of times for breaks. Different schools may have different approaches so if they have not communicated this to you, it is worth asking the question.
This week the Department of Education have outlined plans relating to return to schools, nurseries and colleges for England in September and what to expect. There is a section specifically about shielding children in this guidance available here. We understand you may have reservations about these plans and advise that you communicate with schools regarding any concerns as they may be able to provide further support and reassurance that the government has not advised of.
You may want to place some sort of indicator or acknowledgement that your child has been shielding or is vulnerable while at school. Some may not feel comfortable doing this and the child’s views would need to be considered in this.
As a liver child, their school will already be aware of the special considerations that needed to be in place for your child before coronavirus. Therefore, we hope many will be understanding if you communicate that your child has been shielding and there are some anxieties around returning to school.
Explaining to children
Just as explaining what coronavirus is and why we had to go into lockdown was difficult, explaining how to adapt to a new way of living and schooling will also be hard. It may be useful to have an open and honest discussion with children about the changes they may see and how our behaviour needs to change in this new world. It will allow them to talk about any worries or concerns they may have.
BBC Bitesize have published an article on Six ways to support your children as lockdown eases.
BBC Newsround have some good resources to help talk to children about returning to school and the changes they may see.
Coronavirus: How will school be different in September?
Coronavirus: Some schools in England are open again but changes have been made
Returning to university
Many young people are considering whether they should delay starting university. There are number of things you need to consider. Is there something else you can do during the gap year? Is your university going to be holding face to face lectures or planning virtual/online learning this year? Is the social aspect of university a priority for you in your first year? Are you nervous about staying in student accommodation while coronavirus still exists? It is important that young people talk to their tutors and contacts within the university they plan to go to in order to gather all the information they need to come to an educated decision. It may be worthwhile contacting Heads of Departments and Student Services to get a better picture of what university life will look like and for potentially how long.
Returning to work
Returning to work is a significant issue. If you/your child is in the high risk group you need to consider if it is possible for you to work from home, but if not, is the work environment COVID-secure to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus? Can you be placed in an alternative position to reduce the risk? You would need to speak to your manager to see how they can support you in these areas if you are concerned. While it is not in legislation, the Government have stated that employers must support their staff and carry out risk assessments that follow their guidance on working safely where possible. ACAS provides some useful guidance for those in England, Scotland and Wales here. You can learn more about what a COVID-secure workplace should look like as well as health and safety for vulnerable and extremely vulnerable people here.
Integrating with a community who may not be at high risk or vulnerable
We understand how hard it is to ensure that you keep to the guidance when many members of the public do not follow the same principles and abide by social distancing and hygiene advice. While you can control your behaviour, it is more difficult to control the behaviour of others. Below are some hints and tips that may help you when increasing interaction with the public.
• Go out without the children and see what has changed to protect people. This will increase your confidence levels before you need to take your children out and help lower anxieties all round.
• Plan – go earlier to places before the rush starts and plan how you travel
• Distance from others where possible i.e. cross the road to other side of the pavement if it is crowded on your side, position yourself in an appropriate place on the pavement, be aware of your surroundings if you feel others are not abiding by social distancing rules.
• Assess the risk e.g. are there too many people, is it crowded, are people not adhering to social distancing and lack of hygiene precautions
• What to carry – hand sanitiser, gloves, face mask, wipes
• Wear something that notifies others that you/your child is vulnerable or at high risk. If you feel comfortable inform those around you of this
• Politely say if you are not comfortable with something whether this be with family, friends or a member of the public
Thinking about mental health – tips and signposting
It is a difficult transition to adapt to and we understand families and young people are going to have varying levels of anxieties about this. Nobody has been through something like this before and your ways of coping and managing will be personal to you. Here are a few tips:
• Take it slowly – try breaking it down into different steps and milestones.
• Have discussions with those you need to in order to make things easier for you and plan certain aspects to help make the transition easier. e.g. other family members, friends and managers.
• Your confidence will build up slowly. If there are certain things you can’t bring yourself to do and you have time before you need to, don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
• Use mindfulness techniques and breathing exercises when you feel increased levels of anxiety and/or panic.
• You won’t be able to control everything but instead control what you can to ease your anxieties e.g. hygiene, where you walk when outside, plan your journeys
Mental Health Foundation have a great article on managing anxieties coming out of lockdown for those shielding. Read more here.
Place2Be provides useful resources and advice for supporting mental health and emotional wellbeing for families and children. Read more here.
This useful piece by Young Minds supports young people with anxieties about coming out of lockdown. Read more here.
Young Minds are calling on the Government to look #BeyondTomorrow and take action now to limit the long-term impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health. Join the fight by signing the #BeyondTomorrow petition here.
CLDF are here to support you
Don’t forget we are here if you need to chat through any concerns or just talk through your decisions. Families/parents can contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 0121 212 6023. Our Young People’s Digital and Engagement Officer (supporting young people 11-24) can be contacted by emailing email@example.com, calling 0121 212 6024, texting 07928131955.