As the first day back at looms ever nearer, old anxieties can resurface and if your child is beginning a new school there can be new worries that have been planted in their minds.
The majority of concerns that come with going back to school are common to most children. These can include worries about making friends, fitting in, coping with the volume of school work and homework, new teachers, getting lost in a large new school and what will happen at lunch and break times.
As children tend to feel apprehensive about similar things, it may be helpful to have a friend round during the holidays and try and bring up with them how they feel about the start of the new term. That way you can get your child and their friend talking about their worries and they will both feel better knowing that they are not alone and then once they go back to school they can face things together.
Also, make sure that your son or daughter feels easy about chatting to you about things. Go for a walk or a drive together to give them the opportunity to talk should they want to. Try to avoid asking ‘what worries do you have about going back to school?’ as this implies that they should have some, and may start to put anxieties into their heads that may not have been there in the first place!
If they do open up to you, try to work out together about how best they can tackle certain situations. Sometimes trying a role-play can help, especially if the fears are centered around making friends or asking a new teacher for help. Any strategies that you can work out together will help them in the future to handle difficult circumstances when you are not there to help.
Ask them what they are looking forward to most about the new school year. Negative issues have a habit of lurking at the forefront of our minds and the more positive aspects tend to get buried at the back. Help them to realise that they are many new exciting things to look forward to. Also remind them that they probably had very similar worries at the beginning of the previous school year and that they coped with those, as they will again this year.
If your child is starting a new school or, going off to school for the first time, you may very well be feeling apprehensive yourself. Try very hard not to voice these concerns in earshot of them and keep a positive attitude when talking about school.
A bit of forward planning can go a long way to help ease back into the school routine at the end of a long holiday, which in turn can help with anxieties and fears.
A week or so before the end of the holiday;
- Try to get back into a normal bedtime routine with getting up earlier and not staying up quite so late. If the whole family is involved in this it will make it easier all round. If they haven’t already got one, an alarm clock might be a good idea for your child to get itself into the habit of getting up slightly earlier than they may have been used to over the previous few weeks.
- Plan a relaxed shopping trip to buy final items of equipment for going back to school. Maybe some of the more fun items that they will look forward to using when they get back, pencil cases etc.
- Have some friends over or maybe even go on a day out with them. If they haven’t seen them for a few weeks it will remind them that school isn’t just about work, there is a more relaxed social side of it to get back to as well.
A couple of days before the start of term;
- Talk about the journey to and from school. If it is going to be a new one then it might be worth having a practice, especially if there is a bus or train ride involved.
- For young children choose a small toy or object that they can take with them that will remind them of home and help make them feel more secure.
- Also for younger children, go to visit the outside of the school if you can. Show them where you will be saying goodbye in the mornings and agree on a place where they know you will be waiting when they come out.
The night before;
- Arrange to meet a friend the following day to walk into school with.
- Make sure that all clothes are laid out ready to avert any last minute panic in the morning.
- Have the school bags packed and ready with everything that could be needed the following day.
- Ensure that your son or daughter gets to bed at a suitable time with a healthy snack half an hour or so before. It is a good idea for them to read a book while they wait to drift off to avoid lying awake worrying about the next day.
In the morning;
- Get up a few minutes earlier than necessary so the morning can be relaxed and will also allow for things you may have forgotten.
- Have a nutritious breakfast ready and don’t forget to pack some healthy snacks too for during the day with a bottle of water.
- Keep the conversation fun and light-hearted and if there appear to be some nerves then plan something to do when they get home. Even if it is just their favourite meal or film to watch in the evening.
Before long everybody will back into their usual routine and the summer will be a happy memory, but there is always the next holiday to look forward to!