Feeling anxious about the first day back at school is only natural – for both children and indeed their parents. Alicia Eaton, Clinical Hypnotherapist and author of “Words that Work – How to Get Kids to Do Almost Anything” shares her 10 Top Back to School Tips to Overcome First Day Nerves, and ensure an easier transition back to school for everyone.
1. Avoid Confusing Your Own Feelings with your Child’s
Many of us will instantly be transported back to our own school days as soon as we catch sight of our little ones dressed up in a smart uniform.
It’s often the case that bad experiences get remembered more keenly than good ones, so do put your memories into perspective – and remember, most of today’s schools are like holiday camps compared to those of 30 years ago. It’s very likely your child will be having much more fun than you ever did.
So do try to manage your emotions – stay calm, take deep breaths and keep conversations light-hearted.
2. 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. 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.
3. 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 familiar faces 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.
4. 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.
5. 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 e.g. “This is where we keep the sports bags and this is where we’ll hang our coats and leave our shoes”.
6. Get Organised with Clothing – 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.
7. Reassure Your Child That You’re Thinking About Them
So slipping a little note into the lunchbox such as “I know peanut-butter sandwiches are your favourite” or telling them that you’ll be looking for that ‘lost piece of puzzle’ when you get back home, or shopping for ingredients for their favourite evening meal, will make all the difference.
8. 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.
Now that the kids are out of the house, it will be a good opportunity to clear some of the holiday clutter that built up. A clutter-free environment will not only speed things up for you in the mornings, but also add a sense of calm and help your children to concentrate and focus.
10. Take Time Out for Yourself
Finally, do remember to utilise any extra time that having your kids back at school gives you, 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.
Alicia Eaton is an expert at helping people change habits and behaviours. The author of “Words that Work – How to Get Kids to Do Almost Anything”, she’s a qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and NLP Practitioner with a successful practice in London’s Harley Street. She’s also a qualified Montessori Teacher and a mother to three grown-up children.
Over to you! Share your back to school tips in the comments below.