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Back to school but not quite back to normal

18th September 2020

by Hannah Harniess

For the last 6 months, our son has been shielded due to falling into the extremely clinically vulnerable category. For so many people who have been in this category, it has felt lonely and worrying at times. The virus was much less understood in March, but we now know that children have a much lower risk of complications or serious illness from Covid-19 and that children with asthma don’t seem to be at greater risk. We are grateful that he no longer needs to shield, as a family we have felt disconnected from our community during this time and I can’t imagine the challenges of shielding if you are living alone. Teenagers are not supposed to be indoors with their parents 24/7 and although we’ve loved having him around, he needs to find his independence again, get out with his friends and be active. Whilst lock-down was essential to slow the virus, it inevitably has an impact on all our mental health and wellbeing that we can’t ignore.

Since starting writing this, both my husband and I have contracted Covid-19 and been quite unwell. We have been holding our breath for it to hit the children, however, all three seem to have escaped with a mild fever and sore throat. After all our months of worry due to his lung disease, we seem to have escaped the virus lightly. Last week he left the house at 7:15 am (yes it was a challenge after 6 months of lie-ins) and went back to school for the first time in 182 days. It all felt very normal, but also very different.

I look back at photos from LBC (life before COVID) and the ease with which we hugged and greeted our friends and family and it makes me sad. Our social circle is much reduced – once you’re a family of 5 the ‘rule of 6’ doesn’t give you much leeway. However, with small steps, we are finding our way forwards – and the return to school has been an important milestone. The children’s mood has markedly lifted and they are thriving on being with their friends and properly qualified teachers again, rather than the sub-standard ones of home school. Sports clubs are back and we have video calls for those loved ones we can’t see in person. We are definitely hanging on to the positives. We need to treat the virus with respect, which means being religious with taking asthma medications and making sure we take up asthma checks.  However, we also need to learn to live with some risk – keeping children cooped up at home will have a much greater long term impact on their social, mental and educational development.

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