Communicating clearly with your child around the return to school

Group of young friends

The upcoming return to school will bring about much change for children and young people, after spending so much time away from the classroom.

School is a sanctuary for many children – it is the place where they make and meet friends, learn new skills and often a place where they access support also.

However, this year’s ‘back-to-school’ experience will be different to other years.

Some children and young people may feel excited about the return; others may feel apprehensive around what the Covid-19 guidance will mean for their school day.

Children will need our support to help them cope with the change as they prepare to return to the classroom following an extend period of time at home.

It is important that, as parents and carers, we engage with our child / children around their feelings and give them the opportunity to share their thoughts.

Through keeping the lines of communication open – and talking openly and effectively with our child / children – we can help to empower them with the skills to cope. Talking really does make us stronger.

Active listening and clear communication can help us to really understand our child / children’s thoughts. When we do, it’s easier for us to correct any misunderstanding or mistakes.

When, as parents and carers, we communicate effectively and listen actively to our child / children, we show them respect. They can then begin to feel that they are heard and understood by their parents.

Communicating clearly role models positive pro-social behaviour to a child or children. It teaches them to give and receive respect within their home or school community.

As schools re-open, it is important that everyone involved in your child’s life communicates clearly to each other to help your child to cope with the change.

It will be important than ever for parents and carers to communicate clearly to the school, for the school to communicate clearly to you as your child’s parent or carer and for the school to communicate clearly internally with their own staff also.

This will create trust with your child and will help to ease uncertainties, as they are more inclined to feel safe and secure.

This is a time of change for both you as a parent or carer and for your child, so it is important that you name and share your feelings and any worries or concerns.

To support parents, carers, children and young people with the return to school, ISPCC Childline hosted a webinar series on Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th August.

Check them out here.

The ISPCC has also extended the hours of its Support Line to 9am – 5pm until Friday September 4th, to provide support and information to parents, carers and others supporting children and young people transitioning back to school. For details, see here.

The Childline listening service is meanwhile available to all children and young people. See

Top Tips for Clear Communication

Practice active listening

Show your child that you are really hearing what they have to say by using open body language, nodding, asking clarifying questions and summarising at the end to ensure you have heard your child correctly.

Listen to what your child has to say without fidgeting, thinking of your own response, or showing displeasure through using body language or interjecting.

Listening is a two-way process, so expect the same interaction back from your child in a conversation.

Before you respond – Stop, think and then act.

Check in with your feelings and check that you can respond and listen calmly. If you cannot, explain that you need time before you continue with the conversation. State the time needed and come back to the conversation.

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