A year on into the Covid 19 pandemic and it’s back to school time again for lots of primary and secondary school children. Some will still be waiting to hear when they can return full time. Others may have started back, and many will have a mix of emotions about the return to a ‘normal’ school day routine.

Parents and pupils have been juggling homeschooling for so long now that for some it may have been starting to feel like a new normal, so the move back to school will throw challenges to some who may struggle to adapt back into school ‘as we used to know it.’

The extra time spent with parents, and carers along with the uncertainty and worry that families have endured may make the separation all the more daunting. Some children may find returning to school quite scary, and be worried about social distancing, and hygiene. Some children or young people will have lost relatives or parents throughout the pandemic and are returning to school following a bereavement or period of worry and upset..

Young people’s experiences of the lockdown period will have been very varied. For some, it will have been a safe and perhaps enjoyable time. However, for others, it will have been very challenging or even traumatic depending on their circumstances. Schools and teachers are used to supporting their pupils through many of the challenges they face in life during their school years. However, the current situation will amplify those life events and there has never been a more important time for children and young people to have the emotional support that they need.

Dealing with Bereavement and Loss

There is no doubt that while many people, parents, teachers and children will be looking forward to a return to some kind of routine, there will also be a lot of anxiety around these changes. In addition many parents and teachers have been working from home, juggling their workload with family life. Some teachers have volunteered to go into the school hub and may have even lost colleagues, friends or relatives during this tough time.

Some children and young people will also be affected by loss, with relatives or friends who have died during the lockdown, due to coronavirus or other illnesses. Others will be aware of a relative or friend being unwell or hospitalised due to the virus. For other young people, they may have been dealing with difficulties at home such as changes to parents’ employment, perhaps resulting in a home or school move, or they may have experienced long-term isolation from important figures in their life such as grandparents and other relatives.  

Regardless of the type of loss, many will be experiencing this with a sense of grief. How children and young people respond to those feelings of loss and grief will differ widely.

Other Problems Faced by Children and Young People

Some children have faced other issues such as domestic violence, abuse or neglect, and family conflict. Many families will be affected by financial concerns, for example, loss of employment or ongoing worry about relatives who are key workers and continuing to work exposing them to greater risk of ‘catching coronavirus’. Many young people may have found themselves in the position of having increased caring responsibilities for family members.  Hunger and lack of nutrition will be prevalent to many children, with some facing insecure housing, for example, those living in hostels or refuges. Teachers will be faced with children and young people expressing varying behavioural and emotional difficulties as a response to these stressful situations. 

Changes to Everyday Schooling

Many other emotional difficulties will affect a broad range of children in the aftermath of the lockdown period. For example, by the time they return to school, for many pupils there is likely to be an increased fear of socialising, fear of contamination, loss of motivation and structure, fear of not sticking to the social distancing rules and getting it wrong etc. Schools and staff will be under pressure to teach under new arrangements within the national social distancing measures to limit the spread of coronavirus. Classrooms will be limited in the numbers of children and young people attending educational and childcare settings with some pupils still spending their time doing ‘blended learning’ which means in a school environment having face-to-face learning, alongside some home schooling. In some areas the exact arrangements are still being developed meaning a certain amount of uncertainty for all.

Resources for Teachers

In light of the ongoing situation around coronavirus, teachers and those in education may be looking for activities to boost pupils’ wellbeing. Living Life to the Full courses and resources, developed by Professor Chris Williams, are aimed at primary and high school age children. The Living Life to the Full approach (LLTTF™) is one of the world’s most used ways of communicating a widely recommended type of talking therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT has been used for several decades, and research has led to it being one of the most recommended treatments for low mood and anxiety.

Rather than offering therapy our courses take a cognitive behavioural approach widely recognised as one of the most effective ways of helping develop well-being and resilience by teaching key skills that help build a growing sense of control over how you feel and react, once taught these skills can last a lifetime. All courses have been developed with an exciting range of resources that fit with the criteria for Curriculum for Excellence for younger people.

Living Life to the Full courses remove much of the jargon from the CBT so that it is clearly communicated. By using an accessible language and powerful, clearly communicated change tools, the content aims to ‘help you to help young people help themselves’. We have three courses available, to suit each age group and needs.

Living Life to the Full for Children and Young People is a range of courses and resources designed to be used by Teachers and Supporters (for example in Schools, Charities and CAMH’S teams). The range of resources have strong evidence based content, which has been shown to increase personal learner growth/experiences and resiliency life skills.

We Eat Elephants

The resources are targeted for use with children age 5-8 and 9 – 12 and are:

  • Engaging
  • Story-based – you tell the story, they learn
  • Build on how you think and work with young people
  • Gives you resources to teach- with attractive support materials
  • Includes everyday situations faced by young people at home and school
  • Use the engaging characters to focus attention
  • Posters and Feelings cards make learning about emotions fun
  • Help children work out why they feel as they do- and make small changes that add up
  • No jargon- yet retains the key elements needed for effective change

My Big Life

Lessons and resources are designed to be delivered to young people aged 11-13

‘My Big Life’ lessons and resources are designed to be delivered by teachers or supporters of  young people aged 11 -13 during transition from primary to secondary school or for those who experiencing challenges at school or home life. Or those who are experiencing some difficulties such as disciplinary or attendance issues, academic struggles including dyslexia and more.

In just six enjoyable sessions, this course can help young people make a difference to their lives. With supportive guidance at each session, young people learn how to respond when they feel low, worried, or angry and will learn skills that help build resilience, confidence, and ways to tackle everyday problems.

  • Session 1: Understanding your feelings
  • Session 2: How to get a Big Life (increasing helpful activities)
  • Session 3: How to think in a Big Life way (identifying and challenging unhelpful thoughts)
  • Session 4: Overcoming problems
  • Session 5: Building inner confidence
  • Session 6: Staying strong when you feel angry

The courses comes with trainer or teacher lesson plans and notes for every session. Additional resources are available for you to print that aim to aid dissemination, including: a small credit card reminder, diary sheet, as well as the worksheets.

Living Life to the Full for Young People

Living Life to the Full for Young People is aimed at High School age young people and is adapted to suit the problems and everyday situations that this age group may encounter. The course is:

  • Lesson 1: Understanding your feelings
  • Lesson 2: Doing things that make you feel better (increasing helpful activities)
  • Lesson 3: Looking at things differently (identifying and challenging unhelpful thoughts)
  • Lesson 4: Building inner confidence
  • Lesson 5: How to fix almost everything in 4 easy steps (Overcoming problems)
  • Lesson 6: The things you do that mess you up – and the things you do that help
  • Lesson 7: 1, 2, 3, Breathe – taking charge of anger & irritability
  • Lesson 8: 10 things you can do to feel happier straight away
  • Lessons can be delivered in classes, or online – with options for targeted work with young people in a 1-1 or small groups setting who are facing low mood anxiety and stress.

The courses come with slides, trainer or teacher lesson plans and notes for every session. Additional resources are available for you to print that aim to aid dissemination, including worksheets for every session.

While many children will return to school feeling anxious, upset and worried about the future, schools will play a very important role in supporting pupil wellbeing, resilience and recovery after the Coronavirus pandemic. Some students will be more affected than others for a variety of reasons, such as if they have an existing mental health conditions or additional needs which make changes in routine difficult. Whatever the circumstances, schools aim to create a safe and supportive environment for all as their main priority, with a focus on not only teaching the curriculum but also prioritising the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of children and young people.

For more information on our courses and resources for children and young people contact orders@fiveareas.com 

The Living Life the Full Team.

Other useful contact details for supporting pupils and families:

https://www.childnet.com/

https://www.childline.org.uk/

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/

https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/

https://www.childbereavementuk.org/young-people

https://www.carersuk.org/

https://www.kids.org.uk/

https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-help/find-a-foodbank/

https://www.samaritans.org/?nation=scotland

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