For most parents the return of more children to schools earlier this month was a relief. But for those who were clinically extremely vulnerable it will have come with added anxieties. Hannah Paradis is a teaching assistant from Cambridgeshire who suffers from diabetes and has shared her experiences.
Even though supporting my children to learn at home was so much more difficult in lockdown 3, I found myself secretly hoping that the Government would extend the restrictions. I didn’t want the children to return just yet. It wasn’t just the time we were spending together that I didn’t want to give up; I was worried. I had recently been moved into the clinically extremely vulnerable category which made me more anxious about the consequences of contracting COVID 19.
Lockdown made it easy for me to control these anxieties, we couldn’t go anywhere, see anyone or do anything outside the house except our daily walk. Once I heard that the restrictions on school attendance were being eased, I was concerned about the number of other people my children would be expected to be in contact with.
At this point I reached out to the school to discuss my anxieties, and they were brilliant at communicating with me. I know how stretched their time is, but they always took the time to reply to emails or answer a phone call. They sent me a detailed document with the safety measures that would be in place upon the children's return. We talked through the COVID data for our area, this was reassuring as we were in a good position in terms COVID numbers falling. We also discussed what was best for my children’s education, wellbeing and mental health. The school even offered a transition period for my children as I’m an anxious parent and the children find separation difficult. All of this really helped.
After discussions with the school and my husband, and hearing about the measures which were being put in place, we decided it was in the children’s best interests that they return on 8th March. We wanted to prioritise their education and mental health. We had done what we could to support them to learn from home but home-schooling is no replacement for being taught by your teacher. Attempting to complete our own work alongside teaching our 3 primary school age children was really tough. Our eldest son, who suffers anxiety, was also struggling with lockdown, missing being amongst his friends, and the lack of routine and structure. I realised that although there was a small risk to me, the children deserved to be with their friends and teachers: learning. It was time for them to return to school.
Since then, I have been offered my first vaccination and I have begun to think that each day is a step back towards normal life which, is a real comfort.
The children have now been back a week and I am no longer anxious. I can see that the children are much better off at school.
For updated information on shielding advice for the clinically vulnerable, which will stop from April, click here.
A conversation with a familiar teacher may help to reassure CYP about their return to school. To prepare for such conversations, staff may wish to refer to PHE’s Every Mind Matters and Rise Above platforms, which have been adapted for the context of the outbreak. PHE have also launched new e-learning to help parents and carers, front line workers and volunteers support children and young people in emergency or crisis situations.
You can find mental health resources for children, students, parents, carers and staff here.
And information on testing in schools here.