Have a Question? Need Parenting Advice? Ask Michael Hawton

By  Parentshop.

It’s that time again, you’ve made it through the hot, long summer holidays and it’s time for packed lunches, book covers, new uniforms and a routine to start again. The start of every school year could potential mean a spike in your child’s (and your) anxiety. There are, however, some ways to alleviate some of the stress around starting school again. Your attitude as a parent going forward to start the new year is just as important as your child’s! Take some time to point out some positive aspects of starting school each new day to create positive anticipation about those nervous first days of school.

Below are 4 simple strategies for you and tips to make the transition back to school easier:

  1. Create a routine

It is easy to fall out of routine over the holiday period and develop some bad habits. Over the holidays, you may have found it difficult to maintain good eating habits without the structure of school. Reintroducing a balanced diet of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and lots of water will help them improve energy levels, concentration and emotional well-being. Maintaining adequate sleep patterns is vital for children of all ages.  Proper patterns may have been disrupted over the holidays. To promote good sleep habits in your children, re-establish routines around bedtimes, have a regular time for bed and make sure computers, mobile phones and other electronic devices are switched off (and preferably out of the bedroom) at least an hour before bedtime.

Some useful sites listing the effects of lack of sleep are:

http://sleepeducation.net.au/

http://www.news-medical.net/news/2008/07/07/39779.aspx

You can also find out how many hours is ideal for each age here:

http://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/

  1. Take time to talk about the feelings that could come up

If you have a child that is prone to anxiety the more discussion you have on how they are feeling and strategies to control those feelings the easier the transition back to school will be. Parents can help ease the transition by talking to kids about how they feel about going back to school. They can support them by listening to how they’re feeling, responding with empathy, and working with them to come to a solution. If your child communicates a worry or concern they have, try to tune in by saying words like, ‘You seem really worried about that’ or ‘I can see that must have been pretty upsetting for you’ and try not to problem solve too early, particularly if they are wound up.  If, after really listening, you believe there is a problem that needs addressing, try to help them figure out a solution that they think they could try. Remember that not all problems need to be fixed, and just knowing they’ve been heard can make a big difference.

Tip: Talk with children about positive experiences they may have had in the past at school. Remind them they will see old friends and meet new ones.

  1. Check your own anxiety

It is natural for the start of the school year to be stressful period for parent as well. Parents sometimes need to recognise that their own fears might be preventing their children from engaging in age appropriate activities or tasks. If we want our kids to be willing to try new things and to persist when they experience difficulties, we need to encourage effort, build confidence and convince our kids that ‘if at first they don’t succeed to try and try again’.

Tip: Plan one thing to try in the first school term that puts you both outside your comfort zone, such as catch the bus for the first time, walk to the shops or try a new extra-curricular activity.

 

  1. Plan, plan, plan

Start the school year out as you plan to proceed! It is good to start the year with some realistic, achievable goals for children to achieve on the first day, the first week and going forward. Ticking off these goals will start your child off with confidence.  Students can create an action plan for their first week.

Tip: Have your child call a friend they trust to meet them in the playground on the first day. Make contact with their favourite familiar teacher or support staff member who can support them in the first week.

Many children easily become nervous and unsettled about the new year, even if they are not starting at a new school. Changing schools, new classrooms and a new teacher are all anxiety provoking situations. Even reconnecting with friends after the holidays can trigger anxiety. Take a few simple steps to ensure the transition into the new year is smooth.

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