Stressed, anxious, sad and scared – these are just some of the feelings young people may be having about their return to school after nearly six months away from the classroom because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s according to Nicola Ball, a school counsellor who is among thousands of our members who’ll be supporting young people in the weeks, months and years to come with the impact the pandemic and school closures have had on their mental health and wellbeing.

Nicola says that for some children “school is a safe haven” and that having six months away may have had a big impact on their wellbeing.

“The overriding and consistent message we’re receiving from young people are feelings of being stressed, anxious, sad, and scared,” says Nicola.

Pressures and expectations

“From a young person’s perspective though, these thoughts are mostly to do with the pressures and expectations of schoolwork and achievement, and very little to do with Covid-19.”

She describes how among young people returning to school there’s lots of stress and anxiety around being able to catch up with schoolwork and also about not understanding or forgetting the new rules in place in schools and being shouted at, shamed or humiliated in front of school peers.

“I’m expecting we will see an increase of panic attacks from some stressed individuals, and self-harm – as young people may have struggled with the lack of support and help to manage big powerful emotions. 

Influx of trauma

“I also anticipate an influx of trauma within young people for a variety of societal reasons related to the fall out and impacts of covid-19,” adds Nicola, who runs Glasgow-based The Talking Rooms, which offers counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in schools.

She says the time away from school, may affect young people’s ability to concentrate and focus, so things may need to be taught several times for them to sink in.

This can then also cause a decline in mental wellbeing; triggering feelings of not being good enough among young people.

She says parents may notice their children are struggling with the return to school if they’re spending lots of time alone, if they’re not connecting with friends, if they’re not as interested in their usual activities or are lacking drive or purpose.

She adds: “Low mood, or generally being snappy can be a teenage thing, but over time, can indicate that a person isn’t coping well.”

Support from a trained professional – such as a school counsellor – can help young people who are struggling with the return to school after so long away.

Gain back control

Nicola adds: “Getting our young people into school and in their education is key, however, stressed brains can’t learn, and retain information, so a counsellor will teach a young person how to manage their anxiety responses and gain back control of their minds and body, in order to make school a much less stressful experience. 

“I think we all need to mindful of this, teachers and parents, to ensure no one is left behind and that we all talk openly and humanly about how this experience has impacted us all,” she adds.

Find a counsellor or psychotherapist who can help you or your child with our Therapist Directory.