“Worry less, smile more. Don’t regret, just learn and grow” – unknown
As the summer holidays begin around the world and our children grow up and move on it is a time of great excitement but also great anxiety for many. Particularly for children who are making the move from one school to the next, but even for those moving between classes, the idea of going back to school can be a daunting one. With over a million school aged children being treated for stress we need to be armed and ready for any issues which may add to the often unavoidable stresses our children now face.
For many a new school year is an exciting time of new school bags, pencil cases and shoes and they can’t wait to launch themselves into the challenges of the year ahead. For others it is a time of terrifying change, that fear of the unknown sets in and it can be paralysing. It is easy as a parent to forget that feeling of dread and brush it off with a “you’ll be fine” but for your child it is equivalent to an important job interview, that will last a whole year!
It is a time of many difficult questions…
What will the new classroom be like? Will the new teacher have different expectations? What if they don’t like me? What if they make me sit next to the child who picks their nose? The work will be too hard, I won’t find my way round, they won’t have the food I like… sounds pretty intense doesn’t it?
So how can we help our children to cope with all these changes?
This is the key to successful transition whether it is starting school, changing class or moving school. If possible familiarise your child with the school, visit as often as possible, (when moving to a new class all schools give the children a chance to have time in their new classroom). Make sure they know the new routine; What time is break/lunch? Where will they eat their lunch? Where are they allowed to go during break? And so on. The more they know about how the day will run the easier it will be to picture themselves going back to school.
Whether they are worried about academic performance, sports, reading aloud, making friends or how they will find their way round, reassurance that they will be great, and are capable of making this change is vital. Let them know that as long as they work hard you will be proud of them (avoid saying try your best because that is a difficult thing to comprehend and it could be argued you can always try a little more!). They will probably be with existing friends but if not try to get to know other children their age locally who will be in their year and arrange play dates over the holidays if possible.
Simple breathing techniques can really help children to stay calm in difficult situations. Teaching simple methods, such as equal breathing (breathing in to a count of four and out to a count of four) instantly calms down the body’s fight or flight reflex and helps us regain control.
These are very powerful for children of all ages, even as adults we can smell our Mum’s favourite perfume and feel comforted. Choose a relaxing essential oil such as lavender or chamomile, sit and hold your child while letting them smell the oil maybe listen to some relaxing music, read a book together or watch a happy film. You can then recreate that feeling of security and comfort for them by giving them a tissue with the oil on to take to school or even putting a dab of it on their sleeve.
Preparing for any change can be daunting but if we are prepared, secure and have that secret smile that comes from the knowledge that we have a whole host of people on our team it becomes much easier. Make sure your child knows you will be there when the bell rings at the end of the day to share all their adventures and give them a hug if they need it and together you can get through anything.
For more information why not download my Back to School ebook which goes through the many causes of school anxiety and how to best handle it.