For many children, starting a new school year can be daunting. New teachers, new classmates, increased workload and more expectations can leave even the most confident child feeling anxious. Many parents feel powerless to help and can have reactive, emotive responses to our children’s worries, which can make things worse.
So if you’re concerned about your child going back to school, here’s our tips to help give them, and yourself, a calm and confident start to the academic year.
1. Kids Love Consistency
- Children feel a sense of safety with structure and consistency. You can create this predictability with set mealtimes and maintaining kind but firm boundaries around bedtime and technology.
- The unpredictability of the last year can create anxiety in children but by providing a safe, consistent structure in the home, this can give them a sense of calm and peace.
2. Face Their Fears
- It’s our job to help children learn to tolerate anxiety so if they are worried about going back, don’t avoid the subject, ask them why. Get them to make a list in order of biggest to smallest worries (it might surprise you as big worries for them might seem small to you).
- Avoidance will make their worries worse – the thought of doing something is often worse than actually doing it so make a step by step plan together.
- Reward them for achieving those first steps as these are usually the hardest.
3. Don’t Let your Worries Become Their Worries
- Some children may have had extra time off school due to the pandemic which may make you concerned about their academic progress.
- Share your enthusiasm for their learning without putting too much academic pressure on them.
- Our brains learns better when we feel calm so prioritising your children’s wellbeing will make a big difference to the quality of their learning.
4. Friendship Groups Can And Will Change
- It’s a fact of life that friendship groups shift over time – if you can explain this to your child this can help them adapt and be open to change, giving them the resilience to build on and create new friendships.
- Some children may need some extra help to build friendships so why not organise a couple of play dates outside of school.
5. Work On Your Communication Skills
- Every child is different so consider tailoring your communications to suit each child. Some will want to unload straight away, others will only say a few words. Either way, give them the space and don’t push them to talk if they’re not ready. Let them know you’re ready to talk when they are.
- Some children need help to contain their worries so they don’t spiral. Suggest writing down or drawing their worries and keep them so you can talk about them with regular check-ins.
6. Listen, Listen, Listen!
- Make the time to listen to how your child is feeling. Resist the temptation to interrupt or dismiss their feelings (what might seem trifling to you could mean the world to them).
- Rephrase what they have said to show you have heard them i.e. ‘so it sounds like you really enjoyed art but felt a little lonely at recess time’.
- Being heard and accepted can be incredibly healing. It can make a real difference to your child’s wellbeing and can help build trust in your relationship.
7. Empathise, Then Make A Plan
- Kids are going to feel a whole range of emotions at the start of a new school year and all these feelings are valid. Let them share how they are feeling with you.
- It can be tempting to try to fix their emotions but what can be more helpful is to empathise with them i.e. ‘I can hear how scary it is for you to be in your new class.’
- Once you’ve shown empathy – start coming up with a plan together, i.e. ‘I know it’s tough but I know you’ll get through it. What do you think you can do to help?’