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Advice about student 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.

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​Pay extra attention to your child’s emotional needs

This has been a challenging time for many people in our community. As uncertainty and worry related to COVID-19 continue, 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 o​​f 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 or childcare

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

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

  • everyone is making sure they are safe and there is plenty of soap so that everyone can wash their hands many times a day
  • 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 feels sick, they will stay at home until they feel better.

Young childr​en

Returning to kindy or childcare

Many children will find it hard returning to early childhood education and care after an absence. The StartingBlocks website has the following suggestions on how you can settle in your child:

  • If possible, start with shorter or fewer days, then gradually increase time spent at the service.
  • Find a preferred staff member or child you can leave your little one with at drop off time.
  • Spend some time with your child doing their favourite activity before you leave.
  • Talk to educators about what comforts your child and discuss how you manage activities or times of the day they find unsettling. For example, does your child have a toy or blanket that helps them to settle?
  • Show your child you feel secure about leaving them at the service and that you trust the staff. Say 'goodbye' confidently and reassure them that you will be back later. While it may be tempting to leave while they are engaged happily in play, it can be distressing for your child to realise you have left without saying goodbye.
  • You should feel that you can contact the service at any time to check how your child is settling. The staff should provide you with sensitive, honest feedback.

Primary school stude​nts

Prepare for cha​​nges to school processes

At times, in order to adhere to COVID-19 restrictions, changes to your school’s normal processes may be put in place. 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 th​e 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 else.
  • 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 and so forth’.
  • 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 s​​chool

  • 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.

Download the supporting primary students' wellbeing and mental health during COVID-19 factsheet​.

​​Secon​dary school students

Helping students feel safe at s​chool

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 children 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 school does feel sick, they will stay home 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  (PDF, 537KB) 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.

Download the supporting secondary students' wellbeing and mental health during COVID-19 factsheet​.

Getting advice and support

Talk to your guidance officer and student support team about your school’s approach to monitoring, identifying and supporting students with mental health and wellbeing concerns.

Ensure students who need additional or more intensive support are referred to the guidance officer or other support staff.​

Access a range of support​ from organisations that provide specific services to support families and young people.​​​​​​​​

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Last updated 06 December 2021