Helpful tips for secondary students returning to school

Find helpful tips to support secondary students as they prepare to return to school.

Published 9 September 2021

COVID-19 has required everyone to make changes: how we live, how we socialise, how we learn.

Everyone has a learning-from-home story and, while there are similarities, our own story is unique.

Some students found it hard, others may have been worried about how it will affect their progress and there have been others who have enjoyed it. Whatever your experience, know that it’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions and for these emotions to have changed from one week to the next. As we get ready to return to school it is important to think about strategies that will help to prepare for your return, manage any worries you might have and re-focus your thinking.

Getting ready

  • Be kind to yourself. Give yourself the same advice that you’d give to a good friend.

  • Life has been quite different, so give yourself time to adjust back into routine. Be realistic in your thinking about how long it might take.

  • Be realistic and flexible. Talk with your teachers about your work, both the strengths and the challenges. Your teachers are there to help you. 

  • Get organised before the day. Try on your school uniform and shoes before the first day back. You may have had a growth spurt and need to organise getting new gear! 

  • Check your timetable to know what lessons you’ll be having and prepare the equipment you might need. If you’re unsure ask your teacher or someone in your class. Pack your school bag the day before, including a face mask and hand sanitiser. If you don’t have hand sanitiser or a mask don’t stress, your school can give this to you.

  • Try to reconnect with a friend before the first day back and arrange a time and place to meet on your return.

  • Some things are out of our control and it can be tiring worrying about these things. Try and focus on the things you can control, like trying your best with your school work, and see change as an opportunity to learn and grow.

  • Talk with your family and friends to help you prepare yourself for returning to school.

Safety

  • Keep up to date about the rules around mask wearing at school and while travelling to and from school. If you need more information, look at your school’s website or Facebook page or contact a teacher or year adviser. Remember, COVID safe practices about physical distancing and hand washing are for the safety of everyone in the school community.

  • There may be changes to school-based activities like assemblies, sport and excursions to encourage physical distancing and help keep people safe.

  • If you feel unsafe, or are worried about safety, talk to a trusted adult in the school about your feelings.

Keep connected

  • Challenging times can be easier to get through together, so stay connected, be positive and be there for each other. Remember that everyone is going through the same experience and others may be feeling the same way so it can help to talk about it together and support each other.

  • Look out for your friends. If you think your friend is having a tough time, it’s a good idea to reach out and offer support. ReachOut has some helpful tips on how to start the conversation.

Don’t forget your physical health

  • Eating a healthy balance of food throughout the day and drinking water will help to improve your mood, help you concentrate, boost your energy level and support your general health. This includes eating breakfast.

  • Stay active. Returning to school may make you physically and mentally tired for a while. Try to spend some time doing something physical at the end of the day to give yourself a break, get the blood flowing and boost your mood. This could be a walk, bike-riding, dancing, yoga or high intensity exercise. 

  • Make sure you get enough sleep to give your brain a rest and allow you to recharge. Get back into the routine of sleeping 8-10 hours so you can wake up in the morning in time for school. Uninterrupted sleep is best, so put your phone on silent or even better, in another room. 

Feelings

  • It’s ok to feel a range of emotions about returning to school after learning from home. You may feel worried, nervous, angry or happy, or any emotion in between. It may take you time to reconnect with teachers and other students and settle back into the school routine. And remember that some days may be easier than others.

  • Look to recall a time in the past when you have faced challenges that made you feel nervous or worried. Think about the strategies that you used to manage these emotions and get through the situation.

  • Even though it can be tough, look to focus on the good things, no matter how small they may seem. It is important to seek out the positives to help build your confidence and focus on your strengths.

If you do feel overwhelmed there are heaps of things you can do:

  • Take some deep breaths, walk away to another area or talk about it with your mates.

  • Use an app to help you look after yourself. Smiling Mind is one app that can be used to practise mindful meditations to manage stress and help you to relax. Reachout.com has heaps of other apps you can check out.

  • Reach out to your support network. This may include your family, people at school such as your teachers, year adviser, school counsellor/ school psychologist or student support officer.

  • There are some helplines that are great to use. You can do this on the phone or online chat. Kids HelpLine (Kidshelpline.com.au or 1800 55 1800) or headspace (1800 650 890) are two places you can contact. They are free of charge.

  • Your local doctor is also someone you can talk to.

  • You will find more ideas on how to look after yourself and your friends on the Department of Education’s student mental health and wellbeing pages.

  • Your feelings are important and you are allowed to talk about them if you need to. There are lots of people you can talk to when and if you need to.

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