Tips to help manage back to school

Where did the summer go? If you are a parent, you are probably in the midst of back to school preparations. Chances are you have got a long list of things to do before next week – name tags in the new uniform, the obligatory new stationary -pencil case, smelly rubbers, notebooks and backpack bought, new shoes worn in, haircut, lunchbox snacks ready.  Going back to school can be exiting. The new academic year is full of possibilities, learning, growth and development. It can also be terrifying, overwhelming and nerve wracking.  Preparing for a new school year can stir up a range of emotions in both children and parents.

There might be one other thing to add to your list, it could be the most important thing of all – addressing your child’s wellbeing, emotional resilience and how they cope. Have you given the same time and diligence to emotional preparations as the practicalities?

COMMUNICATE INTENTIONS

In the whirlwind of back to school preparations be sure to set aside some time to talk to your child about how they are feeling about going back to school. See if you can exploring goals and intentions for the school year. Talk about friendships and the challenges they pose.

ANXIETY TOOLKIT
Each child is different. Do you know what your child does to cope with stress and the pressures of homework, tests, exams and projects? What are helpful coping mechanisms and what are the things that don’t help? You can help your child cope with challenging situations by creating an emotional first aid box of things that help make them feel better. You can keep it in the car for them to dip into on the way to school. Things inside might be -lavender oil, fiddle toys, affirmation cards to remind them that they have got this and feelings pass. My fav is “I can do this”, a breathing or mindful technique such as “5-4-3-2-1" (5 things they can see, 4 things they can hear, 3 things that can touch, 2 things they can smell, 1 thing they can taste) , so your child has a few things to do if they feel nervous, upset or annoyed. Don’t forget to remind your child that feeling anxious is the same as feeling excited.

These are the sorts of emotional preparations that can really help young people mentally prepare for the school year. My eldest daughter is shy in formal situations like the classroom. Last term we spoke about her putting her hand up more to answer questions and contribute in class. Without me encouraging her every morning and asking her every afternoon how many times she raised her hand, she would be quite comfortable not actively participating in lessons.

ONGOING DIALOGUE

Emotional preparations should not just be done before the school year starts, it can really help to touch base with your child on a regular basis about how things are going. It can be like pulling teeth asking a child how their school day was.  Parent Co put together a list of creative queries that are more likely to elicit a response:

  • What was the funniest thing that happened today?

  • What made you smile today?

  • How would you rate your day on a scale of 1 to 10? Why?

  • What is your teacher’s most important rule?

  • Tell me something you learned about a friend today.

  • If aliens came to school and beamed up 3 kids who do you wish they would take and why?

  • When did you feel most proud of yourself today?

  • If you had the chance to be the teacher tomorrow what would you teach?

September brings the start of a new season and a change of energy, take a moment to reflect on the promise of new beginnings. As a parent you have the opportunity to equip your child with a resilient mindset to cope with all the things that the upcoming school year holds. So, don’t forget to add one more thing to your back to school checklist!

Sending love and courage to all school returners whatever age.

Nicola Strudley