One man’s fear is another man’s excitement and so it is for children returning to school. Some can’t wait to go back and others may be feeling anxious.
This past year of Covid restrictions has made the change from home life to school life all the more acute and although we have all eased back into ‘normality’ a little more now, going back to school after the summer can be an anxious time no matter what the circumstances.
Here are some tips for smoothing the path back to school.
As the first day draws nearer, children who are worried, may behave in ways they wouldn’t normally. Even those who are excited may become a little testing! It’s pointless reprimanding a child for not being able to control strong feelings. They are more likely to learn how to do this with support and acceptance.
All new experiences come into the amygdala part of our brains where we decide whether to fight, freeze or fly. Usually we process these and they travel to the frontal lobe of the brain, the logical part, pretty quickly, but some people need help with that processing. Empower children to gain control over their worries by planning ways to avoid the things they are worried about. If things can't be avoided (such as meeting up with people they don't like) support them to come up with a plan of action to deal with them effectively.
Remind children of all the enjoyable things that happened when they were last at school.
Try: Making a list and work together to help them think of ways to get at least one of those things into every day.
Arrange meet ups with school friends before the term starts so children can reconnect and look forward to seeing their friends at school.
Feelings of insecurity can arise when going back to school after a long holiday, or starting a new school.
Try: Making a list of everyone who they know likes or loves them and keeping it tucked into a convenient pocket to touch as a reminder during the day.
If you have a child with special educational needs or if the school is new to your child, ask for information about what the class will look like, who the main teacher will be and get a photo if possible. Do the school journey a few times so the child becomes familiar with the route.
Some children hate buying uniform and equipment for school. Ask them how they’d prefer to tackle it so you have them ‘on side’. Perhaps you could try online as much as possible, a whole day so it’s over and done with or several short trips for specific items?
Children tend to get into the habit of going to bed later and rising later during school holidays. It’s helpful to try to return to school bedtimes and early mornings a few days ahead , so it’s less of a shock to the system. The rehearsal is helpful for adults as well!
Change is a new beginning so encourage your child to embrace change. Caterpillars area great way to explain change to younger children. From crawling around to chrysalis to beautiful free flying butterfly. Look for butterflies as you walk around and remind them that nature's way is constant change in order to grow and evolve.
School is a place for learning. Explain to your child that it’s okay not to know things. If you know everything before stepping over the door, there’d be nothing new to learn and no point in going!