Back to School: How to have a stress-free start to the year
As the summer draws to a close and a new school year begins, there’s a lot going on in the minds of parents and children, particularly if the new term also involves a change of school.
These changes are usually exciting and positive for the majority, and I’m not suggesting that new environments should be “protected against” in kids: Sheltering youngsters too much harms more than it helps, as it stops them from learning to adapt to new situations.
However, this change in routine and environment can cause stress or anxiety in those that aren’t as naturally equipped to deal with it (as you would expect – it’s easy to dismiss the concerns of children, but don’t you experience the same stress when starting a new job?).
Some kids find it easier than others, and academic stress has been cited as the main contributor to depression amongst young people, so it’s in everyone’s interest to address the situation if it gets too much for them. So what can you do as a parent to minimise or manage these worries?
• Start to build up a “back-to-school”-style routine a few days before term starts. Try and make sure your kids are waking up fairly early to minimise the grouchiness that we all suffer from when waking up early after a long break, and try and make sure that they are sticking to their bedtimes a few days beforehand. For older children for whom this may not be feasible, it might be easier to just accept that they’re going to be exhausted when they get back from school for the first week, so try and make sure their evenings aren’t crammed full of activities.
• If your child is starting a new school, driving the route to the school a day or two before and making sure they know their way around the area can ease their worries. Most of the anxiety that comes from taking on new challenges is the fear of the unknown, so if your kids are little more familiar with their surroundings they’ll probably be less inclined to panic about it.
• Make sure that you’re not adding to the stressful environment. Talk about the start of school with a tone of optimism and excitement, and focus on the positive aspects of meeting new people, learning and expanding your mind. If you’re running around like a headless chicken whilst trying to get everything in order you’re likely to be stressing out your kids even more.
• If you can organise all the back-to-school necessities a few week or so before the first day back it’ll make it much easier to set your child’s mind at rest. We all know how much of a nightmare it can be to sort out uniforms, stationery, sports kit and school books so if they’re all bought and ready to go in advance then it’ll give you more time and allow you to keep a calmer schedule.
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