I know we have only just begun the school holidays, but when I read this post, I really wanted to feature it on the blog. Starting back to school can bring up all sorts of issues, and the advice given here is really helpful I think.
By Andrew Tipp
Heading back to school can be a difficult time for both children and their parents. Here’s how to make things go a little more smoothly…
Talk to your kids about worries
Maybe the most important thing you can do is sit down and actually talk to your kids. Find out what’s worrying them about going back to school, and try to reassure them. You could chat about some of the fun things that’ll happen at school when they return, read books about school and get them back into a school-going mood by playing ‘school’ with them.
When they start back in class, make a point of asking how the school year is starting out. This way, if there is a problem this might help prevent it turning into too much of a serious issue. There could be lots of issues, like bullying, problems with a teacher or feeling ‘behind’ in lessons. So get talking.
Re-establish routines and rituals
Be organized and maintain clear rules. Children like structure and routine. To them the world can be fairly black and white, so plan and stick to your guns. Try to do this by gradually transitioning kids back to a school bedtime and wake up routine.
Over the summer kids routines can fall apart, and while that can be fine in July, come September it can cause a lot of stress and hassle! Having fun departures like holidays and trips away during the summer can be great, but it’s important to get back to reality. So gradually reintroduce the night-time rituals of pajamas, brushing teeth, stories and the morning rituals of breakfast, washing and getting dressed.
Manage your time and be organised
The organisation doesn’t begin and end with the kids! You can eliminate stress for everyone by being organised yourself. You can use Sundays to plan out lunches and clothes for the next few days. Having all the stuff to wear for the week (including your own) can make things easier for everyone.
During the week you can continue with this and prepare as much as possible in advance. Start by being realistic with yourself about how much time you have available to cook. While you’re preparing lunches on a Sunday, try to work out if there are any other meal task you could do – like dividing up ingredients and measuring quantities for Thursday’s pizza.
Share the load with others
The mission of getting ready to go back to school can be more effective if it’s treated like a team sport – this might even make it fun! Plan out some age-appropriate chores for the kids so they can get involved in the preparations. This will also teach them some useful principles of teamwork.
Don’t be embarrassed about roping in friends and family to help with the back-to-school prep. Many parents can feel awkward, anxious and too proud to ask for parents to assist with school runs, after-school clubs and generally putting in shifts looking after the kids. But times have changed, and grandparents are now an important part of raising children in many families. Just make sure you let them off eventually to relax and enjoy some time on their own!
Prepare the teacher
If there’s something going on at home, it will help to keep the school and your child’s teacher aware of the situation. Depression, anxiety or stress from home life can manifest itself in lots of ways with kids, from acting out in class to withdrawn periods where they don’t engage with anyone.
So if there’s a divorce or bereavement in the family, it may be best to get in touch with someone responsible at your child’s school. The parent-teacher relationship isn’t a one-way conversation, either – teachers can be great sources of feedback about how back-to-school stress might be affecting your kids.
Don’t take on too many activities
It’s probably best not to schedule too much and allow for plenty of unstructured play. In terms of school clubs, it might be a bad idea to commit your kids to too many activities. Of course, getting involved in these things can be brilliant for development, but the rush to get prepared, attend and get home from dance or sports classes can create a lot of stress for the whole family.
It’s a tough call, and you’ll want to give and encourage your kids to take lots of opportunities. But remember that this can be the best time for families to interact with each other and reconnect after the events of the day.
Create and maintain ‘quiet time’
Everyone is guilty of not switching off devices and winding down enough before we try and get to sleep. With lots of evidence showing that electronic gadgets are preventing us from getting enough sleep, it’s important that kids have 30-60 minutes quiet time before bed. This means having a cut-off point where no tablets and consoles can be played and all games have to be saved and closed.
Earlier in the day, it might be a good idea to introduce quiet times where kids (and you) can get away from TV, computers and phones and just play or think quietly. This is a calming and low-tech solution, but it can work.
Thank you for reading