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At this time of year parents and kids thoughts turn to going back to school after the long summer vacation. This can be an exciting time, particularly if your children are starting school or going to a new school for the first time.
It can also be a challenging and upsetting time. For some children it’s nothing more than the end of holiday blues and they’ll soon get into their stride.
For others, though, it can be the cause of great stress and anxiety.
As the holidays come to a close, for some children, the thought of
going back to school can make them feel anxious and nervous. Here are
some things you can do to make going back to school easier and less
stressful for you and your child.
- Chat about school in your ordinary everyday conversations as the holidays come to an end. Keep it light, keep it positive.
- Ask how they’re feeling about it and whatever they tell you, accept, validate and normalise their feelings. ‘You’re right, it is a bit nerve-wracking on your first day back – same for me and work. I bet there are 30 other kids in your class feeling exactly the same.’
- Plan a few interesting things to do in the evenings and at weekends in the next term, to give them something to look forward to and remind them that school is only a part of their week.
- Establish a routine ‘family feedback’ time which makes it normal for everyone to air and share worries from their day, as well as the fun things that went on. This could happen over dinner time and involve questions like, ‘What was the silliest moment of your day? What was the most interesting fact you learnt today? Did anyone say anything kind or mean?” Have a look at more of our conversation starters for ways you can encourage your child to talk about how they’re feeling.
- Teach them some simple breathing techniques or a grounding exercise to use at school if they feel anxious during the day.
Breathing Techniques and Grounding Exercises
Teach your child to do this breathing technique if they start to feel anxious at school. Say to them:
“Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, hold your breath for
1,2,3… breathe out slowly through your mouth. Do this three times.”
This grounding exercise can help your child turn their thoughts outwards and away from their anxious feelings inside:
Look around and name in your head, not aloud, the following:
- Name four sounds you can hear
- Name your three favourite colours in the room
- Name two things you can smell
- Name on thing that’s great about you
Have a little question and answer competition. You can play this in
the car or walk on the way home from school. See who can ask the other
person five questions and get five answers either in the shortest time
or before the next traffic light you stop at. Questions could be things
like, ‘What was the best bit of your day? Who was the last person you
talked to at school? What colour socks did (friend’s name) have on
today? What was the most difficult part of the day?’
Tip: get them to practice not only answering but asking questions too.
Starter for ten:
Start the conversation with something that has changed for you
recently, to weave into talking to your child about something that has
changed for them. For example, ‘there are three people in my office who
are leaving and I’m pretty sad about it… I think one of your friend’s at
school are leaving too aren’t they? How do you feel about that?’
Tip: the aim here is to encourage a two-way conversation, rather than lots of questions and answers.
Write a letter, message or email to a relative or friend of you and
your child who you haven’t seen in a while. Encourage your child to
write about things they’re doing, and what has changed recently.
Tip: Sharing memories and experiences can highlight how there are new things going on for everyone.
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