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The books are covered, the pencils sharpened, and now the back to school nerves begin to kick in. Whether your child is returning to familiar school surroundings or starting a new school adventure, there will always be some anxiety when it comes to getting into the swing of things for the new school year. We’ve put together tips and tricks to help you and your child ease back into the morning routine, how to address some worries your little ones may be having, and how to steady the family ship when it comes to being organised this September.
What to look out for?
Will I fit in? Who is my teacher? Will I miss the bus? Are my clothes ok? These are some of the very common and normal feelings during times of transition. For children and teens, change can be stressful and disruptive for all the family. Signs to look out for include, clinginess, temper tantrums, complaints of headaches or sore tummies and irritability. Fixing this is through effective communication. In the weeks ahead of starting school, try to set up regular times to talk with your child. Make sure you can offer them your full attention. Sometimes you can use activities as a distraction to ease the intensity of their worries such as going for a walk or playing together.
Start with the basics
Anxious children can sometimes eat quite badly and not get enough sleep. Tune yourself into your child to make sure they are eating nutritious meals and help them focus on sleeping better. In the midst of your own back-to-school checklist, don’t overlook some of the basics. Try to reintroduce regular routines so that life is more predictable for your child. In a situation that is out of their control, try to bring some stability to the things you do have control over.
Make your mornings run a little easier
Mornings with school-going children can be chaotic – even with practice. Pressing the snooze button (DO NOT DO THIS!), finding lost socks, shovelling in cereal and remembering sports gear – it can be very overwhelming especially after the casual routine of the summer holidays. Try to get the children to rope in with their own responsibilities so everyone has a chore. Depending on their age, tasks like stacking the dish-washer or filling up the water bottles can help ease the workload and keep them out of trouble. Start the day well with some music or chats about how they slept and talk about your own plans for the day. Encourage everyone to be open about their hesitations and reassure them that not only did you feel the same when you were a child, but everything got easier as the year went on.
Preparation, preparation, preparation
It may seem obvious, but being ahead of yourself really does pay off. In the weeks leading up to the return of school, ensure you have everything your child needs to start their term off well. Remove any anxiety they might have by controlling the controllable. Cover their books, make sure they have the right uniform and talk them through some of the changes they can expect this year. If you have a child starting school, role play some of the first-day activities, so they are aware of what to expect. Going into secondary school can be even more daunting. Talk about your own experiences and give some examples of the challenges you faced and overcame.
Embrace the nerves
As much as possible, parents try to magic away any nerves that their child has ahead of September. It is, after all, our job to ease their worries. But a certain amount of apprehension is completely normal at this stage. In fact, some of the obstacles and challenges your child will face in the coming months are important for their emotional and social development. If they only experience a smooth and care-free path in life, they will never learn how to deal with some of the more difficult aspects of life.
Of course, when they are little, we give them the best tools we can offer to help them transition as easily as possible. Explain to them what to do if they feel left out, nervous, unsure of something and how to best communicate this to you. Starting school can make us feel as if we are letting them out into the big bad world by themselves for the first time. That’s why it is often more difficult for the adults than the kids. But don’t forget, you are offering them the gift of education, sociability and life experience. Your job is to be there for them to guide them along the way and eventually watch them soar. There is no greater gift than that.
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Happy back to school, everyone!