School holidays are a great time to spend time with the kids and have some fun together. Unfortunately the reality of heading back to work or school comes back around much too soon. Over the holidays some routines may slip and transitioning back to school may become challenging or worrying for some children (and even for some parents). Back to school signals a time of transition for any child: adapting to the school routine all over again, coping with a new classroom, different teachers and forming new friendships.
Tips to help make the back to school transition a little easier
Develop a consistent morning and evening routine in the lead up to the new school year
- Ease your children back into the school routine gradually. It is often more beneficial to start putting a new routine into place in the week or two leading up to schools return. By establishing a consistent morning routine your children will come to know what to expect before school returns.
- Whether you are going out for the day or just spending the day at home, keep practicing the same routine.
Familiarise your child with their teacher, classroom and school.
- Some schools allow students to have a meet and greet with their teacher for the following year. If this is not available to your child, look on the school website for a photo of the teacher or request a photo so that your child knows who to look for on their first day. Show them where to find their classroom, pick up zone and play areas.
- Obtain the school supply list and purchase all text books and writing materials prior to the commencement of the school year. Allow your child to choose their contact paper or favourite coloured pens. Having the right tools will make your child feel more prepared.
Help your children to familiarise themselves with their classmates.
- Most schools release a class list sometime prior to the recommencement of school. Where possible, schedule play dates before the return of school to help refresh relationships with peers.
- Review school policies and procedures for bullying. Rehearse and discuss ways in which your child can cope with bullying while they are at school. Emphasise the importance of asking the bully to stop, walking away, and telling a teacher, before considering further strategies if required.
Reducing back to school anxiety
- The first step in reducing the impact of back to school anxiety is to ensure your child is well prepared. Following some of the tips listed above may help to achieve this. However, if your childs anxiety persists, then consider using some of these helpful tips.
- Identify what your child is specifically anxious or worried about and invite your child to discuss these concerns with you and/or their teacher.
- Model non-anxious behaviour. Display calm and positive behaviours to tell your children that they do not need to feel anxious and that their environment is safe.
- Be patient. Try to be as consistent and patient as possible to reinforce the message to your child that their world is a safe place
Seek professional help
- Psychologists are trained in supporting families to cope with life adjustments that naturally occur, such as starting at school. Psychologists provide education to children and parents about anxiety and ways in which to overcome it. This may include general school anxiety or more specific anxieties such as exam anxiety or social anxiety. In addition, psychologists can provide support by developing social skills for children, including ways in which to manage being bullied. Psychologists may also help families to establish family routines and behaviour management strategies to assist with school transitions.
- Other allied health professionals such as child occupational therapists and speech pathologists may also offer additional supports for children who are starting or returning to school. These professions may provide support if your child experiences difficulty with handwriting or holding their pencil correctly, or if your child experiences delays with their expression and understanding of speech and language.