Communicating clearly around the return to school

This article is the second in a series that focuses on your child’s transition back to school. The series will run throughout August and into September. Go to to read the first article in the series and access other online supports and resources relating to your child’s return to school.

The upcoming return to school will bring about much change for children and young people, following over five months 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 additional supports.

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 a parent or carer, you engage with your child around their feelings and give them the opportunity to share their thoughts. Make time to talk with your child.  What do they think about going back to school? Discuss about their hopes, fears and worries about returning to school. Acknowledge that they’ve lived through a lot of uncertainty. Remind them of times they have overcome challenges in the past. Explain to them that school is going to be different and be understanding of their fears. Be calm – your child will take their lead from you and be reassured if you are steady and matter of fact.

Through keeping the lines of communication open – and talking openly with your child– you can help to empower them with the skills to cope. Talking really does make us stronger.

Active listening and clear communication can help you to understand your child’s thoughts. When you do, it’s easier to correct any misunderstanding or mistakes.

When, as a parent or carers, you communicate effectively and listen actively to your child, you show them respect. They can then begin to feel that they are heard and understood by their parents.

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 changes when the return to the classroom. It will be important for parents and carers to communicate clearly to the school and for the school to communicate clearly to you as your child’s parent or carer. This will create trust for both you and  your child and will help to ease uncertainties.

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


Top Tips for Clear Communication

When you are talking to your child about their return to school, 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 to you child –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. 

To support parents, carers, children and young people with the return to school, ISPCC Childline will host a webinar series on Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th August. The ‘Transition Back To School: Helping Your Child To Cope With Change’ webinar series will see members of the ISPCC Childline services team deliver support to parents and carers of children of all ages on Monday 17th, while incoming 5th and 6th class pupils will be invited to join their parents / carers for the follow-up session on Tuesday 18th.

The ISPCC will also extend the hours of its Support Line to 9am – 5pm from Monday August 17th to Friday September 4th, to provide support and information to parents, carers and others supporting children and young people transitioning back to school.

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

This article was written by the ISPCC, a member of Parenting Limerick. For more details of the ISPCC webinar series, see

Check out our Back To School Resources page for more information and supports to help you prepare your child for their return to school.