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Big Friendship Fears over Back to School

Big Friendship Fears over Back to School

Lifestyle insight

Many children returning to school feel like they have drifted apart from their friendship group and seeing friends is one of the biggest causes of back to school nerves amongst young children, a survey has revealed.

Despite their fears, getting friendships back on track is high on the agenda as ‘seeing friends again’ topped the list of reasons children are most looking forward to going back to school.

The survey*, by Omega-3 family supplement provider Equazen, found more than a quarter of 6 to 14 year olds (28%) were nervous about seeing their closest friends after so long apart - making it a bigger concern than not knowing if they would have to wear a mask (24%).

More than two fifths of children (45%) feel as though they have drifted away from their main group of school friends and nearly one in five (18%) said they are nervous that they won’t have anything in common with friends any more.

New safety measures rules in schools that mean they will try to operate in ‘bubbles’, could separate some children from their existing friends and leave them having to make new friends in their bubble.

Colin Foley, a specialist leader in education with 25 years teaching experience and member of the leading British Association ADHD Foundation Neurodiversity Charity said: “Friendships play a significant role in how happy and comfortable a child feels in school. School closures and the summer holidays mean some children will feel like they have lost their friends and you can’t underestimate the impact that may be having on levels of back to school anxiety.

“Speak to your children about their fears and introduce self-regulation techniques to help them manage their emotions. To do this, you need to help them to recognise what emotion they are feeling, then teach them techniques to deal with different feelings.

“If they are separated from their friends in school, support them by setting up pen pal systems and arranging video calls to certain friends when the child is at home. It will help your child to feel a sense of belonging and connectedness whilst they are in bubbles.”

Covid-19 safety measures spark first day nerves

Seven in ten children are nervous about returning to school.

When asked what is making the trip back to the classroom most daunting, over a quarter (28%) were concerned they wouldn’t remember to wash their hands enough.

Nearly a third (30%) were worried that others wouldn’t be as responsible about social distancing and handwashing as them whilst the same figure were concerned about not being able to get close to people because of distancing rules.

To understand how familiar children are with the ‘adapted’ school, they were asked about their level of understanding of the proposed Government guidelines.

When asked if they are aware of any new rules they’ll have to follow when they’re back at school, over two thirds (69%) said they were aware, whilst nearly a quarter (23%) admitted they didn’t know the new rules.

More than half (57%) were confident however that they would know what the rules are by the time the bell rings on the first day.

Colin addressed the specific obstacles children with special educational needs might have to overcome. “Children with learning difficulties such as ADHD and Autism thrive in routine, so leaving school unexpectedly and returning after a long period will require substantial preparation. Going back to school with new changes will be a big adjustment.

“Speak to their school and arrange a time for you and your child to visit and view the new school layout. This will help your child process the changes and know what to expect. It can also assure them their routine will return with familiar faces.”

*The survey commissioned by Equazen and carried out by OnePoll asked 1000 UK children aged 6-14 years old.

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