As things stand, schools in the UK are set to return as ‘normal’ in September, albeit with Covid-19 safety precautions in place. It is hard at any time to return to school after a lengthy period off during the summer holidays, but with this academic year’s heavily disrupted schedule, September is likely to bring more anxiety than normal. So what can you do as parents to help your children ease into secondary school, either for the first time or as returning students?
Show your own enthusiasm
Children, especially younger ones, take many of their emotional cues from parents when it comes to responding to situations. By letting them know that you think and feel it’s an exciting time, and turning preparation for the school year into a positive experience, it will help children to see it that way as well. Doing things like preparing the items they need and getting their school uniform ready together, will all help them to look forward to the new year.
Talk to them about their worries
It’s important not to dismiss children’s worries with blanket responses along the lines of ‘It’ll be fine’. Particularly if they are starting a new school, children may understandably be concerned about making friends and getting to their classes. It’s also entirely reasonable for them to be anxious given the general climate around Covid-19. Talk to them honestly and reassuringly, discussing measures that are in place and possible solutions if there is a problem, as well as the idea of transition periods when it comes to getting used to a new routine.
Leave plenty of time to prepare
It’s the little things that can make a big difference to a child’s confidence. Do they need to know how to do their tie for their uniform, or tie their shoelaces, for example? Help your child to feel confident about the things they can control by making sure they’re prepared for the new year. From practical things - like the shoe laces - to making sure they’ve done any required reading or school exercises before term starts, and that they understand it.
Keep a routine over the summer
While it’s tempting to throw routine out the window over the summer, it can be a shock to the system to go from no routine to the rigours of the new school year overnight. While you might not be up at 6am throughout August, keeping a routine and starting to get back to a more normal one as the term approaches can help ease anxiety and any issues like not being able to sleep before the first day.
Keep in touch
School teachers return to work before the students go back, so while you and your family are still enjoying the holidays, they’re preparing for term to start. The great thing about that as far as students are concerned, is that it gives you an opportunity to communicate with them and ask any questions in advance of the first day of school. So if there’s anything you (it’s not just kids that have back to school anxiety), or your child are concerned about, try dropping the school an email - they’re always happy to help.
We are increasingly aware of the importance of recognising anxiety and giving all individuals tools to help manage stress and mental health. It’s also never too young to start - from meditation to yoga, sport to breathing exercises, it’s a good idea to talk to your child and practice relaxation techniques to find the right one(s) that work for them in the hope they can use them before school starts, and at school as well.
From having uniforms ironed, ready and tried on for size (kids have a habit of growing over the summer), to having schedules in place for being dropped off and picked up from school, one of the things that can really help alleviate back to school anxiety is being well organised. That way children have a framework for what to expect, feel in more control and there isn’t an unsettling mad rush on the day.
If your child is starting school in the UK for the first time and would like to better understand what to expect, contact our team to find out more about our mentoring services.