SEN Back to School Guide for Carers

Sending our kids back to school, or if we're young adult carers going back to university, may seem like a huge step after a long break off.

For many, this transition comes with some strong emotions - not only for our children but also us as parent and carers.

"My child has been shielding. I feel like we're in an impossible situation right now."

There are children with disabilities going back (with their parent carers navigating the transition), young carers going back, young adult carers embarking on university. Each with their own views and feelings. But the impact goes further than that.

When our children are anxious and perhaps 'acting up' over going back, there is an emotional (and sometimes physical) impact on their parent carers or siblings too.

"One of my children is on the point of school refusal - it's very stressful. School starts tomorrow - wish us luck. One thing is for sure - we will all be exhausted from the build up."

It's important to acknowledge that it's OK to feel anxious, and that those feelings are being mirrored in many households right now.

Equally, if your child or you, as a young adult, can't wait to go back or get started - that's absolutely fine too! There are no right or wrong feelings - we're just acknowledging that there are feelings - and many are strong ones!

"I'm much more relaxed about my children going back to school than I thought - even though hubbie is vulnerable, I'm keen for us to get back into the school routine. Will just need to be more careful at home. (#haveyouwashedyourhands?)"

Resources for Children

Each child has different reasons for worrying about returning to school. There will be some children experiencing anxiety.

Anxiety over new routines, with fear of the unknown and of change. Anxiety of social distancing (or lack of) at school. Social anxiety from the thought of being with lots of people again. Or perhaps anxiety over their academic performance - with worries about how far they feel they may have fallen behind last year.

There are also children with learning disabilities, who may need extra support with understanding new routines, new teacher and new classmates for example.

We've sought recommendations from within our caring community and beyond, to bring carers a list of valuable resources.

Resources for Child Anxiety

  • Child Line have Calm Zone, which has a brilliant tool box of resources to support children with anxiety. Including breathing exercises, video games and ways to cope videos. There is a real breadth of tools, and hopefully something for everyone.

  • For older children, Safetynet has produced an online magazine, which talks directly to the child. This can be very helpful where children respond better to advice that hasn't come from their parents! It talks about why we may be feeling anxious and things we can do to help ourselves.

Resources for Children with Learning Disabilities and/or transition difficulties

  • For children familiar with Widgit, to support their every day movements and activities, a free 'back to school' pack has been produced specifically for this period.

Parent Carer Anxiety

As a parent carer, some of us are experiencing worry and anxiety about our children returning. There are a few things we can do, which give us a sense of control and may address any concerns.

  1. Don't be afraid to pick up the phone or to send an email to school. Yes, they're busy - but they also want the return to school to be a success. We all have the same goal. Ask questions. Tell them what would help. Our idea, may actually be helpful to many other families.

  2. Be kind to ourselves and access some of the resources and tools (see below), to support our own wellbeing.

If our minds are 'at peace', this will only help our children.

Resources for Carers

It's so important that we remember to look after ourselves in all of this. Let's not underestimate what we have been through. All kinds of feelings may be coursing through us right now from relief, to guilt, from anxiety to fear.

In previous blogs, we're shared many tips to support ourselves, including:

Each of the blogs include short, helpful activities and videos of practical ways to support ourselves.

Remember, if you think a chat would be helpful, we have our daily virtual cuppas and the opportunity to book a free 1:1 call to talk things through. Both our cuppas and individual support calls are a great way to share how we're feeling, organise our thoughts, and get helpful feedback and support.

Adjusting to New Timetables

It's valuable to pause and recognise that it isn't just those returning to school, that have to get used to new routines. As parent carers, we're going to have to adjust to a whole new schedule!

"I have 3 children at 3 different schools, with 3 different sets of clubs. Each school and club has its own rules, it's own bubbles/no bubbles, new drop-off/pick up times, new timetables and I don't know what else! And that's before I even start to address the anxiety each child has about going back. My brain and memory are going to get a serious work out as we adapt to yet another new normal! I think my petrol bill is about to go through the roof too!"

Getting organised is the key here. Easy to say and perhaps a bit tougher to implement. Mobilise produced a weekly planning template to help us transition into 'the old new normal', when we went into lockdown. We thought it worth re-sharing now, as we enter this new phase!

Access our weekly planner here. It will help us to ensure we include our needs too, when planning our week!

Why not make a nice brew, in our favourite mug. Put on some music we love - maybe even our Mobilise Carer's Top Anthems (as chosen by the community!) Playlist, and turn the planning task into something a bit enjoyable!

Young Adult Carers

Many young adult carers are about to embark on university. This would have been an emotional step any year, but this year feelings may be magnified.

The 'Resources for Carers' (above) are equally applicable to you.

Abi, a young adult carer and regular attendee of our cuppas is off to Uni and she's can't wait! Abi has kindly shared her thoughts and advice below:

"I am currently heading into my first year of university. The nerves are there, as with any big new change, comes the doubts, nerves and even the 'am I doing the right thing?' question."
"All you can do is plan for the worse case scenarios - if that is having a neighbour come in and help, or having a ready meal in the freezer - its okay to have them there."
"University will have lots of support in place for you so make the most of it. Applying for Disabled Student Allowance (DSA) if you have a disability – I did and honestly it’s going to make a massive difference knowing I have someone there to help me with my work and getting settled into the university."
"Join student unions and clubs, do not say no if you want to go out with a group of friends after a class, the friends you make now will shape your whole uni experience."
"The education centres if that’s college, school and universities will have lots of extra safety measures in place to keep you safe and ready to come back to learning – The university I’m going to, is giving 2 free reusable masks to each student to keep them safe, to use in and around campus."
"Finally get prepared now with your stationary, folders, plastic wallets, pens, highlighters and my top tip that saves me a lot of time when I am studying is Extra Long A4 dividers from Rymans."

What's next?

The wonderful thing about our community is that we learn that we're not alone. We see this every time a carer, like Abi above, shares their story. There is so much empathy, support, tools and encouragement to be had.

Please join our community on unpaid carers and let us know what your Back to School story is. Our virtual cuppas also from from Monday to Friday. Join us for laughs, a fun chat and real deep conversations!