by Naomi Simmons
It’s back to school time. It’s time to sew name tags on new school uniforms, sort out school bags and wake up children early again.
Your child is likely to being feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement. It may be his or her first year of school. Or he or she may have a new teacher and new classmates this year. There will be new routines and new challenges.
Here are some tips to make the transition of summer fun to school a little easier.
Dealing with anxiety
Children show anxiety in different ways. They may get panicky when you mention school or go back to ‘baby behaviour’ like baby talk or thumb sucking. Remember that their fears are very real for them: new children, teachers, routines, separation from you after the summer break. It will take some time for them to settle in and learn what is expected of them
Avoid the first day back chaos
- If your school has a uniform, make sure your child has tried it on beforehand and is comfortable with it.
- If there is no uniform, children can get very anxious about what to wear. Make sure this is decided on in advance and ready for the first morning. The last thing you want on the first day is for your child to want to try on eight different outfits. Encourage them to wear something they feel comfortable in and have already worn happily, such as a favourite, loved T-shirt as this will give them security.
- Make sure your child wears new school shoes for a few days beforehand so that they are comfortable and don’t hurt their feet on the first day, causing additional stress.
- Make sure you have any school paperwork ready to take in so you are not looking for it on the last minute. Trying to find contact phone numbers and doctor’s addresses takes a long time when you are under pressure.
- Have all your child’s books and stationary packed and ready well in advance. Check the lists given by the school, then check them again. There is nothing more stressful than a last minute rush to what you need, when the shops may be run out of supplies! Remember that anxiety is contagious and if you are stressing looking for things, your child is likely to get more anxious too.
- Get in control of all the dates. Get a wall calendar or planner. Mark dates of all school breaks, parents meetings, school plays and concerts to avoid surprises and rushed arrangements.
Most young children will be exhausted after school for the first few weeks, both physically and emotionally. This can show itself in different ways for different children.
- Some simply fall asleep and the challenge is simply to wake them up to eat and wash.
- Others become cranky and irritable. Don’t take this personally; it is likely to settle down after the first week.
- Others become hyperactive and it is very hard to get them to settle and sleep.
Keep things as calm and unchallenging as possible in the first weeks. Avoid after school activities where possible, although this can be difficult if the school sets homework. Give extra reassurance and cuddles. If you can, encourage about an hour of exercise after school every day. Not only is this fantastic for your child’s health, but will help control the stress and anxiety they may be feeling at school. Running around in the park or playing a ball game with you is all you need.
You will obviously be desperate to know what they are doing at school and how they are getting on. Some children are happy to tell you everything that happens at school. However, most tell you very little. This is because they are still trying to process their experience themselves and will probably share more with you once they are settled in again.
It is obvious, but make sure they have a good breakfast every day and plenty of sleep. Many young children need about 12 hours a night. As well as promoting good health, this will also help keep exhaustion and anxiety under control.