How can you help make the back to school or starting school experience better?
It’s a challenging time of year for many parents and students. Starting a new academic year can be daunting for a number of reasons and back to school anxiety is a very common complaint and to a degree, normal. Transition can be a difficult time, be it starting school for the first time, going to a new school or moving classes within a school. But what’s the best way to deal with these worries? What are the most common causes for concern? And are there ways we can help alleviate the stress of going back to school?
There are a number of things children may be worried about at this time of year; Who will be my new teacher? Will I like him/her? Will my friends be with me in my new class? Will the work be harder this year? Will I have more homework, will it be too hard? Who will I sit with at lunchtime? Will I get lost? What if I don’t understand the work? Will I look silly? What if something happens to Mum and Dad while I’m at school? (this can be particularly of concern to children who suffer separation anxiety)
What can parents and carers do to help as their children start school?
There are a number of practical things parents and carers can do to help alleviate your child’s stress and worries as they start a new term;
Make sure your child is as familiar as possible with the new setting.
Take several trips to school so they are familiar with the route (especially if travelling independently – make sure they do dummy runs) and organise for a tour of the school and some time to familiarise themselves with their classroom. Often schools will organise settling in sessions, be it before the holidays or a gradual start to school life at the start of term. If at all possible arrange play dates with new classmates (the school may be able to facilitate this if your child is particularly anxious).
Request an academic schedule/timetable from the school so you can talk through the type of things your child might expect – when they will have PE, how the day is structured etc
- Create a list of school supplies your child might need – new pencil case, lunch bag etc – and go together on shopping trip to get these items, making the experience as fun as possible! You can do this prior to starting school or once they are aware what other children have and what they would like.
When you have everything together your child can help pack and get their school bag ready.
Don’t transmit your own stress to your child – they will take cues from their parents/carers.
Get your own emotions in check and try to manage them. Taking on too many commitments as a family can have an impact – think carefully about signing up for too many after school activities, especially for younger children, if it’s going to make life more stressful for everyone.
Role playing; it can help younger children to practise role playing in the first few days – acting out a morning routine and saying bold ‘hello’s and ‘goodbye’s to their teachers
- Acknowledge your child’s fears and encourage them to talk openly with you about their experiences at school. Let them know their feelings are normal and shared by many children, especially at the beginning of a new year at school – they will find this reassuring.
If your child’s anxiety is severe or you think it might by symptomatic of something more serious, do inform the school prior to your child starting, and seek further professional help. Hope your children have a stress free back to school experience, or even starting school experience; it should be the most enjoyable time which will take them into a bright future so it’s worth spending a few moments considering the small things that may make a big difference to them.