Back to School Success 4 Kids Alicia EatonFeeling anxious about the first day back at school is only natural – for both children and indeed their parents. These 10 tips will help to make the transition back to school easier:

  1. Avoid confusing your own feelings of nervousness with your child’s: In the run up to a new academic year, most of us automatically get transported back to memories of our own school days. The sight of a young child dressed up in a brand new, over-sized uniform, that just makes them seem ever so vulnerable, is enough to trigger off anxious feelings in most parents. But remember, whether your own school days were good or bad, unpleasant experiences always seem to be recalled more keenly than good ones, so keep your memories in perspective. Most of today’s schools are like holiday camps compared to those of 30 years ago – your child will be having much more fun than you ever did. Manage your emotions – stay calm, take deep breaths and keep conversations light-hearted.
  1. Get a good bedtime routine in place: Your usual bedtime routines will have relaxed over the summer holidays, so start moving bedtimes a bit earlier each night for a week before the first day if possible. And once you’re back at school, it’s time to get firm. Too many parents tell me they struggle to get their kids into bed, but the more confident you can be about the rules, the more likely your children are to do as they’re told. Write the ‘bedtime rules’ on a large piece of paper and stick them up on the wall, so everyone knows what’s expected of them. Being ‘firm’ doesn’t have to be ‘mean’. You can still be the sweetest, loveliest, cuddliest parent in the world – it’s just rules are rules. Your children will be happier feeling that someone’s ‘in charge’ and will probably surprise you by doing just as you ask them to.
  1. Ease gently into new childcare arrangements: The start of a new term or new school may also mean some different after-school care. If it’s possible, do try to ensure your child is collected by a familiar face for the first week, to avoid having too many changes to cope with in one go. Many children feel anxious at school because they’re worrying about who will take them home again, so a slow transition to new arrangements is best.
  1. Help your child to get organised: Your child will be coming home with lots of new information, timetables and details of things to remember. It won’t be surprising if a little anxiety sets in. Create a wall-chart or get a whiteboard or day-planner to hang on the bedroom wall and use different coloured pens to categorise all the things they need to remember. Learning how to do this from a young age, will help your child when they’re older and sitting more formal exams.
  1. Allocate space at home for storage: There’s lots of stuff that comes with going back to school – your child will have school shoes (perhaps more than one pair), sports kit, PE bags, uniform, lunchbox, books and school bags to look after. Over time these will get lost and the house will always look untidy unless you allocate specific storage space for each of these items. Tell your child exactly what you’d like them to do eg. “This is where we keep the sports bags and this is where we’ll hang our coats and leave our shoes”.
  1. Get organised with clothing and lay school uniform out the night before: This may sound like an obvious one, but your child may not be used to being mindful of putting on the ‘right’ socks and the ‘right’ shirt. If they have an array of new sports kit, swimming trunks, towels, football boots etc. to schedule and remember, then it’s a big ask. Remember – you will not have time in the morning to go hunting around for a lost pair of sports socks and this panic will add to everyone’s anxiety.
  1. Reassure your child that you’re thinking about them: Children do worry that their parents might completely forget about them once they’re at school. Slipping a little note into the lunchbox such as “I know peanut-butter sandwiches are your favourite” or saying that you’ll be looking for that ‘lost piece of puzzle’ when you get back home or even shopping for ingredients for their favourite evening meal, will make all the difference.
  1. Make home-life sound more boring than school: This is especially important if there are younger siblings still at home with you. Your child won’t be so keen on going to school if he’s always hearing fun stories about the younger one’s trips to the farm or play-dates, so remember to give plenty of descriptions of boring trips to the supermarket too.
  1. De-clutter now for peace and calm later: Now that the kids are out of the house, clear the inevitable holiday clutter that builds up. A clutter-free environment will not only speed things up in the mornings but also add a sense of calm and help your child to feel more in control. Do everything possible to reduce housework during term-time, so you can be more readily available to support the kids and help out with homework.
  1. Take time out for yourself: With kids back at school, this is a great opportunity to recharge your own batteries and spoil yourself a little – it may seem a bit selfish, but it won’t be long before your energies are tested once more. A calm, relaxed parent is a bonus for any child.