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Tips for coping with back-to-school worries

It's normal for kids to feel worried or anxious about heading back to school after the holidays. Here are some simple steps you can take to support them.

After a great holiday, many children are raring to get back to school, however some children will be apprehensive and even a little bit (or very!) anxious about the first few days.

They may show their worry by struggling to get to sleep, challenging behaviour or tearfulness. Here are some simple strategies to support you, to support your kids.

Have a play in the school playground

Playing alongside your kids can be an easy way to get them talking about what they might be worried about. This creates an opportunity to offer some strategies for if their worst worry comes to fruition. What if they have no-one to play with? Where will they eat their lunch? It’s a bonus if you spot some other children there at the same time.

Increase familiarity with teacher/s

Kids who are starting school for the first time or moving to a new school have to cope with the biggest adjustment, but even moving up a year level means facing more academic demands, a new teacher, making new friends, or re-establishing old friendships.

All kids need to feel connected to their teacher to feel ready for learning. Print a photo of your child's teacher or teachers from the school website, or email the office and ask them to send one. Stick the picture to the fridge and speak positively about them. This adult is going to be hugely important to your child this coming year, supporting your child to feel like you, the teacher and your child are on the same team will make everything more manageable.

Practice saying goodbye

For many children, the biggest challenge will be saying goodbye to you. Talk about what you’ll say and do when it’s time to leave. You might like to invent a silly saying or rhyme that will be part of your routine, for example: "I love you, you love me, have a great day and I’ll see you at 3!”

You might give your child a small keepsake to hold on to that reminds them of you, such as a cut-out heart with a love note, or a small stone you found on the beach together, that they can keep in their pocket while you’re apart and give back upon your return. A book that my children particularly like is The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. It the story the little raccoon is afraid to let his mother go at school so she places a kiss in the palm of his hand for him to hold onto in case he needs it.

Back to bedtime routines

If your house is anything like mine bedtimes slip in the holidays. In the next few days get the bedtime routine back into action to support the night before school starts back with a familiar rhythm.

Stationery fun

Let your child choose their own stationery. As much as possible support your child to choose their own school stationery so they feel some ownership and control.

Talk it out, a day ahead!

The day before school starts, talk through what will happen the next day, from when they wake up. Talk about how their friends might also be feeling nervous, but also excited. Remind your child how you will say goodbye and reassure them that you will be fine too.

Be prepared for the 3pm meltdown

And 4pm... and 5pm... and 6pm! Starting something new is exhausting, especially for children. Holding it together all day can result in some pretty challenging behaviour at home. Be prepared for some tears, it won’t be just your house it’s happening in!

Take care of you too!

Believe me when I say it won’t just be you with tears in your eyes when you drive away. Trust that you’ve prepared your child for today, trust that the teaching staff have your child’s best interests at heart and trust that your child has the inner resilience to make it to 3pm.

Build their resilience & self esteem

Helping our kids learn positive wellbeing skills can make times of transition a whole lot easier. Sparklers At Home is full of simple activities that help kids to manage their emotions, form strong friendships, grow their self-esteem and learn more about their wellbeing.

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This article was written with the support of our friends at The Worry Bug, Sarina Dickson and Julie Burgess-Manning.

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