Whether it’s your child’s first time or not, chances are there’ll be some back-to-school nerves floating around as the new term draws nearer. Maybe they’ll be in a new class, with new teachers and different classmates. Or perhaps they’re moving up from primary to middle school, or middle to high.
Whatever the situation, we’ve got some tips to help you calm their anxieties.
1Talk to them
Even for older kids, the thought of going into a new class or a different school is daunting. They might feel silly for saying so, though, so it’s up to you to take the initiative. Make time to talk to them about what to expect or anything that’s on their mind. Try not to ask leading question, such as if they’re nervous; instead, try ‘How are you feeling about going back?’ and let them express any emotions.
2Turn to a book
There are so many helpful and funny books available to help kids prepare for school. New School Year: Stories in Six Voices by Sally Derby introduces readers to a diverse group of six children of different ages, so it’s great for kids who are moving up a year as well as new starters., ranging in age
3Have a dry run
Going through the new morning routine with your child before school starts will help eliminate some of their fears. Do it properly – set the alarm; go through the morning routine; walk, drive or take the bus right to the school gates. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to get in to find your kid’s class, but at least they’ll know what to expect for the first part of the day. Do this several times if necessary.
4Start preparing them for the morning routine
If your kids have enjoyed late nights and morning lie-ins over summer, the school day routine will be a shock to the system. Start getting them ready for it now. Start by imposing earlier bedtimes and set an alarm each day. Tell them breakfast will be at a particular time, and they need to come downstairs dressed and ready to eat.
5Teach them to make friends
Help your child to practice smiling and saying hello, and introducing himself to new people. Suggest some simple things to talk about to start a conversation – like their favourite trip over summer, or a movie they watched and really enjoyed. Explain that a lot of other kids will be nervous about going back to school too, so a friendly face will be very welcome.
6Arrange some playdates
If your child will have new classmates this year, see if you can get together with some of them – and their parents – so your kids can get to know each other. You could meet in a local park for ice cream rather than having them at your home if that’s easier. Everyone will feel happier if they know there’ll be some familiar faces on their first day back at school.
7Be careful what you say
You might think you’re showing empathy, but telling your child how nervous you were or about something bad that happened on your first day isn’t helpful. It will just make them worry even more. Instead, try and think of a positive experience. Perhaps you made the effort to say hello to someone new and made a really good friend.
8Get ahead the night before
Get everything ready the night before. Pack bags, put out clothes, make sure shoes and socks are ready. Even check that items like hairbrushes and hair bands are where they should be. If you need to pay for school lunches, put payment ready in their bags; if they’re taking a packed lunch, get it ready so that all you need to do in the morning is pop in any refrigerated items. You can even save yourself a few minutes by putting bowls and utensils out ready for breakfast.
9Don’t drag out the goodbye
Whether you’re waving your child off at the door or driving them to the school gates, don’t make saying goodbye a drawn-out process. A hug, a kiss and a cheery ‘See you later’ shows them you’re confident there’s nothing to worry about. The longer you stay, the more you try to reassure them they’ll be ok, the less likely they are to believe you. You’ll only exacerbate any fears they have.
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