How to help kids prepare for back-to-school

It’s hard to believe the summer holidays are over already! The beginning of a new school year is an exciting time, but it can also be stressful for the whole family. These tips are designed to help ease everyone back into the new routine.

Open communication

When we feel confused about change, or if we don’t know what’s expected of us, this feels stressful. If you’ve ever started a new job in a new industry, or one where there wasn’t a lot of good training, you may have experienced this unpleasant feeling. It’s just the same for our kids!

So, while it may seem simplistic, clearly communicating to your child as best you can about what to expect when they go back to school can really help with the transition.

ParentClub.scot says: “Letting them know more about what will happen once they go back to school will help calm any worries. For example, let them know how they‘ll get to school, how they will get back, and what they’ll do after school. Try not to spring any surprises on them!”

Sleep

It’s hard to get back into a good sleep routine ahead of a new school year. They may be used to getting up a bit later, the heatwave may have made it difficult to get to sleep at night, and of course there may be some anxiety about returning to school.

Sleep expert Karen Price shares some great advice on page 10 of our August 2022 issue.    Karen recommends encouraging kids “to do things that help slow down and regulate their nervous system at bedtime. There are many different ways to help calm their mind and soothe their worries, such as listening to a bedtime story”.

Learning how to make our bodies feel calm

Mindfulness techniques can help children recognise signs of stress and anxiety in their body and give them tools to calm themselves. Other benefits can include increased focus, attention, self-control classroom participation and compassion to other kids. Studies have found improvements in children’s academic performance, conflict resolution skills and overall wellbeing, as well as positive effects on stress, depression, anxiety, and disruptive behaviour.

Why not try:

  • Mindful Posing – encouraging kids to try fun poses like the Superman (feet apart, fists clenched and arms reaching to the sky), the Wonder Woman (legs apart and hands/fists on hips) can help them start the day feeling strong, brave and happy. At the very least, you’ll start the day with a giggle!
  • Safari – turn the school walk into a safari; their goal is to spot as many birds, bugs and animals as they can on the way. It keeps their senses active and focused, waking up their brains and curiosity ahead of the school day.

Check out more tips and activities in our Mindfulness article on page 8 of the August 2022 issue.

Positivity

Our kids are not just little sponges, they are little mirrors. They don’t always show it in obvious ways, but they can pick up and absorb worry, stress and negativity from the adults around them. As their caregiver, they look to you for safety and reassurance, which amplifies the impact of both the positive and the negative emotions and behaviours they observe from you.

This is not to say plaster on a happy face at all times and never show them how you really feel. Children are emotionally intelligent and it is healthy to talk about our feelings with them. However, simply being mindful of the things you say and do in relation to school can avoid passing on unnecessary worries.

Focusing on things to look forward to, like seeing their friends, learning new things and having a lovely new pencil case can help them approach the new year with optimism, making it easier for the whole family.

Let them help

Many kids enjoy the chance to get involved in the preparations, especially if they can make some decisions and feel some ownership over their new routines.

Laying out uniforms ready to put on and deciding which socks or underwear they want to wear the next day. Getting new lunchboxes ready, maybe helping to pack them and choose which drink or snack to include. Cleaning out and organising their schoolbags and pencil cases – getting involved in activities like sharpening pencils, labelling belongings and choosing new pens, can help them feel more involved in the process and in control, and hopefully help them feel excited to start the new chapter.

 

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