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Advice about students' mental health and wellbeing

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​​​​ ​We know that children and young people’s wellbeing and mental health is strongly linked to their success at school and later in life. As parents, there are many things you do every day to support your child’s wellbeing and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Primary school students​

Pay extra attention to your child’s emotion and needs

This has been a challenging time for many people in our community. As uncertainty and worry related to COVID-19 continues, you may notice changes in your child’s behaviour, sleep, mood, interactions with others, or eating habits. These are all normal expressions of worry and by noticing and responding with care and support, you will help your child to feel better.

As parents, it is important to be able to:

  • ​​recognise signs of increased anxiety, stress or worry.
  • know that it is a normal reaction.​
  • help children feel safe and supported.​

Be aware of your own behaviour​

It is important to understand the effect your own behaviour can have on your child. If you react in ways that suggest you are worried, your child may worry too! Try to remain calm and positive when talking to your child about COVID-19 and issues affecting your family.

​Reassure your child it is safe to go to school

During the learning at home period, your family, along with staff at your child’s school, helped your child understand that staying away from school was necessary to keep them healthy and safe. As the pandemic continues, your child may now feel worried about whether it is safe for them to be at school. Their worry may be greater at the beginning of a new term feeling safe at home during the holidays.

To help your child feel safe and less worried about being at school, have clear and calm conversations and tell them the facts, including that:

  • the decision for students to be back at school has been made based on health advice. 
  • everyone at school is making sure they are safe, and there is plenty of soap at school so that everyone can wash their hands many times a day.
  • they are allowed to sit next to their friends in the classroom and during group activities, as children like them usually do not get sick from COVID-19.
  • the Government is keeping an eye on COVID-19 – if it starts to spread again, decisions about what we need to do to keep everyone safe will be made quickly. 
  • if anyone at their school feels sick, they will stay away from school until they feel better.

Prepare for changes to school processes

Changes to your school’s normal processes may have been put in place to ensure physical distancing requirements for adults can be met. As changes are made, your school will communicate with you so that you and your child are aware of any changes and can prepare accordingly.

Changes to your school’s normal drop off procedures may mean that you are unable to walk with your child to their classroom. Schools understand that this may be unsettling for you and your child, particularly if your child is anxious about leaving you. Be assured that your child’s school will have adequate staff on hand to ensure students are safe at all times, including getting from the school gate to their classroom. If you have any questions or concerns about any arrangements, you are encouraged to contact your principal.

Establish a back-to-school routine

Establishing a routine with your child before and after school will help make being at school a positive experience.​

Before the school day

  • ​Establish a routine of waking up, having breakfast and going to bed at regular times.
  • Discuss any issues or fears your child might have about school or anything.
  • Talk to your child about what they like about school.
  • At the start of a new term, talk through the routine of what it’s like being at school.
    • ​For example, “when I get to school I go and see {teacher’s name}; and then we hang our bags on our hooks; we say hi to our friends; we find our seat...etcetera”.
  • Involve your child in:
    • ​​laying out their uniform so it is ready for the morning.
    • packing their bag – you might make a game out of this with younger children. A visual checklist can help your child remember what they need to take.
    • planning and packing their lunches and snacks.
  • ​Try to have calm evenings and allow extra time to settle before bedtime if your child is feeling worried.
  • Allow extra time to get ready for school in the morning so that you are not rushing.

After school

  • Talk to your child about their day, including what they enjoyed, what may have worried them, and what they found difficult.
  • Include some family time. Children miss being at home with you during the day, so it is important for them to feel close and connected with their family.

Extra support for your child

If you feel that your child needs extra support at school, get in touch with your school to find out how to contact your Guidance Officer or other support staff. Support is also available for children through Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or by visiting the Kids Helpline​ website.

If you or your family are facing hardship during COVID-19, the department has published information about how to access support on their website.

​Secondary school students 

Communicating with parents 

As changes are made to school routines and processes, including school day start and finish times, access to school grounds and lunch times, these should be clearly communicated to parents. Encourage parents to contact the school if they have any questions or concerns.

Helping students feel safe at school

Older students will likely be aware of the relatively low rate of COVID-19 in the community and the rationale for why it is safe for students to be at school. However, some students may still feel anxious about whether it is safe for them to be at school when COVID-19 is still present in the community. In particular, students who are concerned about getting the virus, or who have family members with pre-existing health conditions may be especially anxious.

It is important to check in with your students about how they feel and, if they are worried, to help them know that it is safe. Tell students the facts, including that:

  • ​schools are making decisions based on Government and health advice.
  • it is considered safe for students to be in the classroom with their peers.
  • everyone at school is practising good hygiene, the school is being cleaned regularly, and there are sufficient supplies of soap and sanitiser.
  • the Government is closely monitoring the situation - if the virus starts to spread again, decisions about what we need to do to keep everyone safe will be made quickly.
  • if anyone at your school does feel sick, they will stay away from school until they feel better.

Challenges for students

During times of stress and uncertainty, it is normal for young people to feel more worried in general. You may notice increased levels of worry from students about:

  • ​being separated from parents, carers and immediate family who are vulnerable.
  • school work – senior students may continue to feel anxious that they have fallen behind in their learning this year.
  • social relationships with friends and peers - everyone deals with stress differently and this can put strain on peer relationships.

Supporting students in the classroom

Your school’s whole school approach​ to supporting students’ mental health and wellbeing provides a strong framework for supporting students during this challenging time. With the help of support staff, you can support students’ at school by:

  • ensuring mental health and wellbeing is a priority.
  • providing opportunities to check in with students as a group or individually.
  • focusing on establishing and maintaining school and classroom routines.
  • encouraging students to look after their own mental health and wellbeing.

Getting advice and support

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Last updated 12 August 2021