Written by: Shani Fowler
September! It marks the return to school after those long summer school holidays. And whilst parents have to restrain themselves from skipping around and high fiving each other, the kids can be quite apprehensive and suffer from back to school blues. Many issues can worry them – let’s have a look at what these issues are and how we can make the transition from school holidays to a renewed focus on learning a little easier.
New classes/first timers and new school
Whether a child is starting school for the first time, entering a new class for the new school year or starting high school, they can feel very anxious about these changes. It is normal to feel this way. Most adults have some resistance to change so it’s only natural and normal a child would. It can be stressful for a child and can upset parents and other members of the family too, especially if they are crying or even feigning illness in an effort to prevent going back.
Common worries include, will they like the teacher? Will I still be with my previous friends? Will I fit in? Who will I sit with at lunchtime? What if I can’t make new friends? What if I can’t do the new school work? Starting high school can present differing worries from infant and junior. Suddenly they are no longer the big fish in a little pond – they are now the little fish! They may have been totally split off from their friends and concerned about losing long established friendships. Although these worries are very real and we may indeed remember experiencing some of them ourselves it is absolutely crucial that they do attend school. Avoiding school (apart from obviously affecting their learning) will re-inforce their negative feelings towards school making eventually attending even worse. So how do we deal with these fears?
Firstly make sure that your child shares their fears. The old adage “a problem shared is a problem halved” is very true. Just saying out loud what you are worried about can be a release. Making sure your child expresses their fears is essential so that you are totally aware of how any potential problems.
Reassure your child that it is normal to be a little bit apprehensive but don’t patronise by saying everything will be alright. They are worried it won’t be – so tell them that solutions exist to deal with any problems they experience. Tell them for example “if the worst happens this can be done.” Knowing there are resolutions to problems is a big weight from our minds and having a plan to deal with issues is productive.
Focus on positive
Help your child to focus on the positive. Remind them the fun they had last year at school or how good they were at making friends. Remind them that they can see old friends out of school if they don’t see that much of them in school, friendships can still be retained. If they worry each time they start a new year, you remind them how well and quickly they settled in last time. Ask them what they are looking forward to on their first day and what they are looking forward to doing generally. Usually children have been in their new classes and met their new teachers so they can focus on how well that went too.
This might seem obvious, but make sure your child eats properly and well. One of the first things often affected by anxiety is appetite and everyone functions better and thinks more clearly if they are nourished well by food.
Parents keep calm
Parents – we need to remain calm! If your child cries – battle with your urges to crumple to the floor alongside them screaming at the injustice of it all! Children take their cues from us and if they see we are upset it won’t do them any good, they will believe there is reason to be worried. Remain calm and confident; praise them for how well they are doing. Say goodbye to them once, don’t keep running back and pressing your face up to the classroom window to see if they are okay – remind yourself that the teachers are experts in the field distracting a crying child; and they will have them rolling plasticine before you have got out of the school gates.
It is our job as parents to always be aware of problems and ensuring our children keep talking to us about their schooling is important. Always keep the lines of communication open – it is the only way we can be certain how they really feel and can deal and resolve any potential problems. Children rely on us being there to sort things out for them and if they don’t share their worries it will be less of a problem shared is a problem halved and more a trouble doubled.