Over the past two of weeks we’ve been hearing collective sighs of relief and high fives as kids head back to school, and parents celebrate school holiday survival.
While you might be ready to see their backpacks heading out the door, not all kids are feeling excited about their days of freedom and flexibility coming to an end. There will of course be many looking forward to reuniting with friends and getting back into school activities, others however may be feeling nervous about change – new teacher, new classes, even a new school – or adjusting to new expectations around routines, both in the home and the classroom.
A mixture of nerves and excitement is completely normal. Most children will settle within the first few weeks, others, may take a little longer to find their feet. If you’re worried about an extended adjustment period, there are some ways you can help your family feel more settled, according to Jennifer Pollard, founder and coach at The Kids Coach.
She runs coaching and classes designed to help modern children develop social, emotional and psychological strengths. As a parent, wife and business owner, she knows all about the challenges and demands facing modern families. “The adjustment period can be a trying time for the whole family with increased needs for support, reassurance and assistance. At times these increased demands can strain the time and energy of busy parents and it can be really useful to actively reduce outside commitments during the first term and allow extra time for rest and recuperation for both parents and kids”, Jennifer says.
Here are Jennifer’s tips for a happy household as kids head back to school:
● Prepare, Plan and Organise
Planning ahead helps things to run smoothly! Create simple afternoon and morning routines so that everyone knows exactly what needs to be done and in what order. Some children find having a chart with pictures to follow helps develop confidence and stay focused. Lay out clothes and pack bags the night before. Unpack bags, put lunch boxes on the bench as soon as you get home.
● Reduce extra curricular activities
During the first term give everyone more space and time to adjust to new routines, without added pressures.
● Schedule in downtime for rest and recuperation
And that’s not just for the kids – reach out to family and friends for support, and organise some kid-free time to recharge your batteries.
● Develop a relationship with your child’s teacher
Make an effort to head into school before or after class if possible, or email. Teachers are busy people with lots of children and jobs to attend to so obviously be mindful of that but it is worth taking time build a relationship with your child’s new teacher.
● Encourage playdates
Encourage your child to invite friends from school over to play after school or on the weekend. It is often preferable to invite one friend at a time so that your child can really spend time bonding with their playmate.
● Make extra time for connection
Spend time doing something enjoyable just for fun. Fresh air and a bit of exercise always helps to recharge the batteries and alleviate stress Keep communication open If you are worried that your child may still be struggling after the initial adjustment period, Jennifer says your first step should always be to chat with your child. “Make extra time alone, without distractions, where you can connect with your child, check in with them and really listen. Some children are chatty right after pick up but most need time to process their day and are more ready to talk after some quiet time alone before bed. “Simply being present and allowing them time and space to talk about whatever is on their mind can often be enough but if they need an opening try asking open ended questions.” Here are her suggestions as conversation starters to get your child to open up:
● How have things been going at school?
● What is your teacher like?
● What are you focusing on in class?
● What are the kids in your class like?
● What did you do during break time?
As a parent or caregiver, your natural reaction is often to ‘problem solve’ or quickly offer advice. However, Jennifer suggests listening with an open mind, giving your child space to express themselves and ask you questions. “A great way to finish the conversation is by reminding your child that you are there to support them, appreciate them talking to you about things and that you love and appreciate them,” she says.
Within a few weeks, your child should begin to feel settled, and Jennifer says that by the second terms, they will likely have built up their confidence, developed familiarity with their teacher and peers and adapted to new routines reasonably successfully. “Remember, it is natural to struggle a little when learning new things and adjusting to new people, environments and expectations – that is an important part of the learning curve that can’t be skipped or side stepped!”, Jennifer explains. “The main thing is to keep an eye on is the intensity, duration and impact of your child’s struggle.”
Jennifer Pollard is the director of The Kids Coach. She is passionate about helping families and especially children develop the tools and skills they need to empower themselves, take on the world and make the most of whatever comes their way. Her private coaching and classes combine the most effective techniques from Positive Psychology, Play Therapy and Performance Coaching to teach important life skills to children in fun, interactive and age appropriate ways that they can understand.