College psychologist, Mrs Teresa Yell has a message to share with us for #WELLNESSWEDNESDAY today on getting your child ready for the reality of school post-lockdown

“With time and practise, you start to get used to things….we have started to get used to that new normal”

Melissa Norberg, Associate professor of Clinical Psychology, Macquarie University

We are all aware of how life is changing and has been changed by the advent of COVID-19. I made a comment about life getting back to the way it was and was quickly informed by family that this will not be a return, but rather a venture into a new way of life. We are all experiencing the novelties associated with Lockdown and now, as we enter the next phase where regulations are eased and children may return to school, I wondered how  this “new normal”  will look within the school environment?

Masks: Everyone will be wearing masks.

Sounds simple enough…until you try wearing one for 5 hours at a trot. Preparation for this is key. I thought the following ideas put forward by Catherine Pearson in an article entitled “How to get your kids to wear face masks during the Coronavirus Pandemic” (May, 2020) were sound:

  • Allow your child to choose his/her mask. They may be more willing if they like the masks they are wearing. It also gives them a sense of ownership and control.
  • By modelling mask wearing your child will realise that this rule applies to everyone. We all have to wear masks and I’m sure by now they have seen you put one on as you walk out your front doors.
  • Children may react in the way you react to the mask. If you demonstrate anxiety, irritation and annoyance, so will they.
  • Emphasise that masks are safety precautions. This aspect promotes self and group efficacy which again promotes a sense of control and empowerment. Safe practices mean being part of the solution which can be empowering.  Here it is also a good idea to talk to your children about their understanding of the need to wear masks. Remember as I have said before – don’t overshare information and what you share needs to be developmentally appropriate and honest.
  • Please start practising at home. Try having your child wear his/her mask for 15minutes then increase to 30minutes and then an hour and so on and so forth.
  • The mask needs to be comfortable. Masks in different shapes with different attachments can be tried on at home and assessed for comfort. It will be easier to wear if the mask has the right fit and is not tugging at ears or blocking vision.


  • 20 seconds of handwashing is sufficient.  By now I am sure this is well practised and probably second nature to most.
  • Again, modelling this to our children and training them is very important.
  • If you are bored with singing “happy Birthday twice” please see the following fun link here.


  • Every classroom will be equipped with sanitiser.
  • Start speaking to your children about how and when to use this. Surfaces and objects will need to be regularly sanitised.
  • Make sure they have a bottle for personal use as well. The document you have all received form Kingswood College regarding safety regulations includes the need for hand wipes and tissues.

Social Distancing

A key feature of school is the social aspect. Children like playing with other children.  Peers and a sense of connectedness with those peers is essential to adolescence.

  • Empowering children by giving them information and then encouraging them to be part of the solution is again imperative here. This is to keep them and others safe.
  • Talk them through the new “rules” – no touching, hugging, handshaking, no sharing of food and drinks.
  • Explain to them that they can expect to see a new classroom set up with furniture rearranged to meet social distancing requirements. Google some images of schools that have returned in other countries, so they know what to expect.
  • Prepare them for the change in seating arrangements in the dining hall as well. Please refer to the official school document.
  • Movement between classes will also be limited.

As with all things parenting it is important to communicate with our children, provide them with relevant and appropriate information and remember to be firm but gentle. The more we talk about and demonstrate the “new normal” the more normal it will become.  The last thing we want to do is to exacerbate anxieties. The idea is to adopt a calm approach, establish a sense of safety whilst promoting self and group efficacy as well as hope (D’Amario, 2020).

I would also suggest you all work through the document emailed to you entitled “The Protocol for the Control of COVID-19 at Kingswood College “with your children.  Remember you have a staff of teachers at Kingswood College who will gently guide your children towards the “new normal”. We are all available to assist in this process. 

I leave you with these words…

“In time, we will return to not just a new normal, but a close approximation of the old normal…Kisses hello and handshakes will re-emerge…That sort of stuff is a pleasant part of human nature and a longer-term part of our culture – it’s just having a rest.”

Roger Patulny, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Wonogong University


  • D’Amario, A. Preparing for the return to school. (Accessed June 2020)
  • Gutkowski, D. Talking to teens about ht eimprotance of social distancing. https://theenchantedaunt.com
  • Murphy, A. How to help your teens handle social distancing- Futurity. Posted April 2020 by Patti Vebanas http://www.futurity.org/teens
  • Pearson, C. How to get your kids to wear face masks during the Coronavirus pandemic. May 2020
  • www.theguardian.com May 2020. Return anxiety: Coronavirus has caused a mass emotional event in our lives. 


Ms Teresa Yell is Kingswood College’s Educational Psychologist and has practiced in the field for 15 years. She completed her postgraduate studies at RAU (Rand Afrikaans University) and her undergraduate degree at the UND (University of Natal, Durban). She is mother to two children, a daughter and son. She was the resident psychologist at both Dainfern College and Christ Church College in Johannesburg for nine years and ran a busy private practice from her home. They moved to Makhanda (Grahamstown) in 2016, and live on a small farm outside of town.