Every parent knows that returning to the school is not just about buying pens and packing their backpack. It can be a time for worry, dread as well as excitement and relief (it’s over!) too. Over the years I’ve learned the best way to manage problems is to run through any possible issues, then the start of school term will feel very different for everyone. Here are my tried and tested do’s and don’ts to help everyone through the transition:
1. Do return to your normal bedtime routine
I know its fun to stay up late, have mealtimes at different times but as September draws closer, initiate normal school bedtime hours. I would:
-Start at a minimum of a week ahead, ensure that they understand why ( always get alongside your child) and yes, don’t let them lie in.
– I would also take out screen time at nighttime prior to bedtime.
Hopefully, this will prevent the shock and extreme tiredness in the first weeks of term.
2. Do initiate your normal meal times
Regular fueling is as important as sleep and initiating your normal mealtimes will again set the clock straight.
3. Do have a fun tryout
This is especially relevant for those children who may be anxious, do a practice run a couple of times. Drive to the school building, walk to the school building. If they are really anxious, contact the school so you can arrange to have LSA or teacher to meet them at a pre-arranged area.
Some children really struggle with sequencing in the morning, ( this is completing one task after another and is an important executive functioning skill) Here is a free visual download of a “normal morning routine” sequence. My hope is the download may go towards making everyone’s life easier.
4. Don’t pass on your worries
If your child is starting school for the first time, then let them go gracefully at the school gate and then if you need too, cry in the car or meet with some supportive friends. If your child is a little anxious, then try to solve problems in a matter of fact way, prior to starting and ensure you have a simple “goodbye/separation plan”, you could agree to:
-Walk or drive to school( engaging friends helps)
-We will go to the gate or building….
-I will give you a hug and a kiss, Mrs/ Mr….will bring you to the classroom and say something like, “I know its hard to leave mummy/daddy but I know you are going to have a great day and I will see you at 3.30”
5. Don’t plan too many activities in the first few weeks of term.
It’s tiring being at school, so keep activities outside of school at the minimum, I think children are overinvolved in out of school activities. They need ” downtime”, this will prevent stropiness, meltdowns and overtiredness.
6. Don’t ask loads of questions
Most parents want to know what a child gets up to at school, you may be worried about friendships or be really eager to know how their first day went. Don’t worry if your child does not say much, some children keep their school world separate, it does not mean they are struggling. For children who are struggling with friendships, to prevent shaming, ask open questions such as:
-How was your day?
-Tell me three things you liked or enjoyed?
-Tell me three things that we were more difficult?
7. Don’t Minimise Transitions
Going to a new school or transitioning to senior or junior school are all transitions, children sometimes struggle with transitions so expect a little fallout which means irritability, anger, anxiety and sleep difficulties. Acknowledge it and give them some time to settle.
8. Don’t wait to seek help if you are worried
If you have concerns, with anxiety speak to the teacher, better sooner than later or seek help from an experienced practitioner like me or attend my Stop The Worry Cycle workshop in September.
Wishing you all smooth transition, and do comment and share your best ideas, with love Catherine