When families go back to school at the beginning of each academic year, it’s about new beginnings and getting back to routine or what we term as ‘normal’. It’s also characterised by lots of change:
- New school
- New classroom
- New teacher
- New friends
- New subjects
- New timetable, etc
Change can be stressful and cause anxiety, not just for children but for their parents too. Everyone is learning to adapt and needs to do so at speed in order to get into ‘the zone’. We all do this in our own way and some families find it easier than others. Dealing with the back to school bombshell effectively, requires the following in parents:
- Calmness – you transfer this feeling to your children which also helps them believe that they can cope with change
- Prepared – make sure all the practical details are ticked off your checklist from stationery requirements to school uniforms, covering of books to labelling all belongings
- Organised – ensure you know the school time table, the traffic patterns, have the school lunches sorted etc.
- Clear thinking and boundary setting – change can make your children nervous so you need to give them clarity by scenario planning for the first couple of weeks until the new rhythm emerges eg. “I will be here at 1.30pm to collect you at X spot”, or, “When we get home this afternoon we will have lunch and do homework and after that you can play your new game.”
- Emotional connection – read your child’s emotional state. If they ae nervous you need to provide equal amounts of comfort and firmness to get them through this wobble. For younger children in preschool and primary school it may be an extra-long bedtime story as well as firm and quick goodbyes at school. And so do you.
Dealing with change is a necessary part of childhood. Dealt with positively it builds a bank of resilience and adaptability that will stand your child in good stead in the future. If you are overly nervous of change for your child you will likely pass this on to them. They need to learn to believe in their own ability to cope with change and grow from it.
Creative parenting expert, inspirational speaker and co-author of Tech-Savvy Parenting (Bookstorm, 2014), Future-proof Your Child (Penguin, 2008), and Easy Answers to Awkward Questions (Metz Press, 2009)
Parenting Matters/Vol 7 Issue 10