Christmas excitement is over. New Year has started, and the kids are back to school next week.
Return to school for many kids and adolescents brings a mixture of anxiety – as school can be stress provoking – and regret that the good time is over, and has passed so quickly.
It could be challenging to support children when they are finishing their break on a low side. When children feel anxious about return to school, it is important to acknowledge it and try to understand what the source is; It could be irrational for adults but seem perfectly rational for a young person – It is most important for parents is to show your child that you accept it, and support your child.
Long break means a lot of family time, free time and time to be bored. Some young people respond to that with unsettled feelings, as they feel safer in a structured environment of school and weekly school routine. So they may welcome being back to school. They may also miss their friends and after school activities.
Below, I am mostly concentrating on kids with ‘mixed feelings’ about going back to school after the break, but most of them can be used in preparation for every young person. Just pick what you think may be suitable for your children.
How to support your kids during the transition back to school:
1) One week earlier start introducing term time rhythm of going to sleep and waking up early, so when the school term has started their body clock is adapted
2) Introduce a calendar and start counting days until the first day back including the rest of the week – it’s good to prepare calendar together with the child, so they can mark their favourite subjects or activities at school – maybe something to look forward to.
3) For young children who may be returning to separation anxiety – add to their calendar who is going to do drop off and collection from school.
4) Together with a child make a list of ‘good things about school’ – child’s achievements and joys and also ‘worries about school’.
5) For younger children – you can propose to ‘play school’.
6) Acknowledge worries about school/ subjects/ friends and offer to think together how you could help, or what the child could do about it himself or herself.
7) Share your experience that sometimes it’s natural to worry or be anxious but it’s always good to share it with others.
8) Think whether there’s anything that you may need to support your child with and try to assess where the anxiety of returning to school may be coming from.
9) Be prepared yourself, if you are ready for your children’s ‘back to school’ frenzy, it will set a calm example and reduce stress.
10) Teenagers’ parents – young people who dread going back to school after a challenging term often like the idea of a ‘blank page’, starting new, it’s good to ask what they could do to improve their experience.
11) Plan a nice family time for Friday afternoon or Saturday; It could be as easy as having pizza of kids’ favourite meal or having a family time out on Saturday, something that will feel like a reward after a first week of being back – it’s not easy, so treat yourself and the kids!
Every transition brings anxiety but once it’s over we feel stronger. Wishing you a good start of school term! May the Force be with you.