As the school gates reopen, so do the floodgates of so many emotions. Some children might be excited to see their friends and welcome the morning routine, whereas others might be feeling more apprehensive. What will it be like? Will I be separated from my friends? Can I hug my friends? What if I fall behind after being at home for so long? How long will it last?
No one likes to see their child upset, so if you are struggling with the return to school then here are some tips to encourage a successful term.
It may seem like an obvious place to start but breaking down those communication barriers can work wonders in the long run. It doesn’t have to be a formal interrogation, just find a comfortable setting where they are relaxed and happy to speak. For younger children, this could be at bathtime, and for older children perhaps a car journey or out walking. Children are more likely to open up when they are less distracted.
If you ask your child if they had a good day at school they will likely reply with “yes”, “no” or the infamous “can’t remember” which instantly shuts the conversation down. But if you are clever with your questions, it’s amazing what you can find out. Some positive examples to use include:
- What was the best part of your day?
- Did anything funny happen?
- Did anyone get into trouble?
- What did you learn today?
- What did you play at break time?
- What is your favourite time of day?
- What makes you happy?
- What makes you sad?
Whether your child has never really enjoyed school or these feelings of anxiety are new, it's important for them to know you are there, so comfort them when they need it and praise them when they’ve had a great day, little boosts like this will go a long way.
As your child begins to open up, it’s important to really listen to them. What may seem small to you can feel like the whole world to them so try not to dismiss any concerns with “It’ll be ok, don’t worry” try to give them advice and even relate to your own childhood to show them that you’ve dealt with similar situations too. Anxiety can be especially heightened during transition years so keep this in mind and pay extra attention to their feelings as they settle in.
A trip to the beach, an after school treat or playing their favourite game at home gives them something to focus on and look forward to after school. You could also encourage them to get dressed in their school uniform on a morning by including their favourite character socks or underwear as this will give them super strength powers of course!
Ask them to pull their silliest face, sing their favourite song or do their favourite dance on the way, anything you can do to lift their mood and distract them from worrying is a great incentive.
Don’t feel like you have to battle this on your own, check in with their teachers to see how they are settling in and ask them for regular updates if they are struggling as they can be a great support system for your family.
As heartbreaking as it may be to leave your child upset at school, one of the worst things you can do is give in and let them have a day off. Children are more resilient than we give them credit for, therefore if they have settled within a short amount of time and seem to enjoy the day when they are there, then persist with taking them to school as normal and we promise, it does get better.
I’m not talking dress rehearsals in school uniform on a Saturday or anything, but a casual drive-by and a quick reference to the school while passing can reassure them for the coming week.
“I wonder if Miss Meadows has been to the beach like us this weekend, you’ll have to tell her all about it when you see her in the morning. . .”
This acts as a gentle reminder that they will be going to school again soon but also makes it more relatable to them so they can focus on looking forward to telling their teacher about their weekend.
Setting your child into school again after so much time at home is something a lot of parents will be dealing with too, so remember you are not alone and you are doing your best. Why not reach out to other Mums to see how their children are coping and even swap tips on how to deal with particular issues.
Spot The Signs Of Anxiety
If you think your child may be suffering from anxiety stemming from returning to school, take a look at some (not all) of the symptoms below and as always, reach out to someone if you have any concerns.
- Feeling unwell on school days
- Irritable when discussing school
- Avoiding homework
- Noticing a change in their behaviour or mood at home
- Becoming quiet and withdrawn
- Becoming more aggressive
- Trouble eating or sleeping
For additional help and advice on dealing with back to school anxiety, take a look at these helpful articles packed with coping strategies for you and your family.