With school just around the corner, many parents at this time of year are starting to breathe a small sigh of relief. As much as we love our children, the summer reminds us of how much hard work they actually are!!
However, going back to school is not always easy for some children. After such a long break, anxiety levels can increase when they think about going back. New teachers, new classrooms, possibly a whole new school to think about. Then there are new social groups, missing their main caregiver, and the small things like the school food, toilets etc that can be worries too. Luckily, most schools do now do transition days before the summer to help alleviate these anxieties, but 6 weeks is a long break from what is usually classed as ‘normal’ routine.
So what can you do to help your child?
Bedtime routine – please refer to my blog last September (2017) on the importance of a bedtime routine, and now is a great time to get this in place. Sleep helps your child’s brain to develop and get them ready for each new day.
Talk to your child about what to expect – explain to your child what will be happening every day in the morning before school and also about after school as well. It’s important for them to know who is picking them up from school.
Allow them to share your worries with you – it’s okay for children to feel worried about aspects of school and if you brush these under the carpet, that will not be helpful for them emotionally. Tell them who they can go to if they are feeling worried at school, such as the teacher or teaching assistant, and also let them know that they will not be the only one worried or scared. Let them know that even adults get scared of new things, such as starting a new job or hobby.
Stay positive – it’s really easy to begin to worry a lot about your child and feel nervous yourself if you see your child looking upset, scared or worried. Yes, share your experiences of anxiety but show them how you came through these experiences with support, if that is what you needed. Remind them of their friends they are going to see at school, who they may not have had chance to see throughout the whole holiday.
The power of eye contact and body language– when you’re talking with your child, give them plenty of eye contact and encouragement that however difficult this may be for them, you have confidence in them that they will be okay. However hard it is, you do need to leave them to cope without you, so now is the time to help them build these resilience skills. Some children find this easier than others but if you can show them that you have confidence in them, then they will believe in themselves a lot more.
Get everything ready with them to night before school – get everything laid out ready with your child the night before they go to sleep. Not only does it save you time in the morning, it will help your child feel prepared.
Prepare to feel emotional yourself – have the tissues ready – for those parents whose children leave them easily, it is easy to forget how hard it is to leave your child crying at the door or looking out of their comfort zone. I have been there, leaving my daughters looking so upset that I have left them, that I then cried all the way home. You can also simply get emotional if it is your child’s first day of school and the tears come from nowhere! Just have the tissues somewhere handy in case you need them.
Show your child you trust the professionals who will be caring for them – always talk in a positive manner about the adults looking after your child. The child needs to feel looked after and safe when not with you. If they do not feel safe, it will be hard for them to relax. I still remember now beginning Year 4 at school and having a teacher called Mrs Roberts, who was known as the ‘school dragon’. She always seemed so strict and scary and I was not looking forward to being in her class. However, she turned out to be my favourite teacher of all time. She was strict, but actually was firm but fair. I still remember a friend of mine having a tea towel put over her head so I couldn’t see her, as every time I looked at her during a class presentation I burst out laughing! Let your child make their own opinion up of their teacher rather than you impose your view of that teacher on them. If you do have any problems and need to share your concerns about any professional issues, do this out of earshot of your child.
Good luck next week, which every day your child starts back at school! These are just a few top tips to help you through, and please do get in touch if you would like any more help or advice.