Going back to school after the long Summer break can be a stressful time for parents and children. Parents may still be buying school equipment from confusing lists, and having to label them all in time, whilst trying to get children to bed before midnight and up again in practice for early mornings. Children may be worrying about whether their parents have bought the ‘right’ stuff, who's going to be in their class and what teachers they will have this year. Everyone may be feeling either excitement or dread.
There are a few things that we can do as parents to help with this transition back to school. First of all, it’s a good idea to ask our children or teenagers about how they feel about going back to school. Often children are much more cooperative if they feel someone is listening. Take time to sit down with them without the distraction of computers or telephones. Ask them what they hope will be the same or different this academic year. Try to make it about focusing on the future rather than bringing up concerns about what happened last year, unless your children want to discuss something that is worrying them, e.g. being bullied or the loss of a good friend.
If you ask them a few open questions such as ‘How do you feel about the new school year? What would you like to happen this year at school? ‘Or’ What would you like to achieve this year?’, let them talk uninterrupted. You can keep them talking by just nodding, keeping eye contact and just saying ‘Is there anything else?’ If they have a chance to talk and think about their expectations this can reduce possible anxiety and may increase the excitement of looking forward to getting back to school.
It is also a good idea to start getting back into a predictable routine before school starts. This might mean negotiating with older children how they are going to plan homework, out of school activities, screen time and getting to bed early enough. With younger children you might want to use reward charts with clear tasks they have to do each day, e.g. getting up and getting dressed by themselves. Each task should be age-appropriate and earn a star or tick. Rewards for a full chart of stars can range from stickers to a special treat for which to save up. All children need routines whatever their age. They are helpful because they help them predict and plan, whilst teaching valuable skills in learning to organise themselves for the future.
At the beginning of the school year it is wise not to commit to too many after-school activities. This can be difficult because you will be expected to sign up in September, possibly for the whole year. However, every school year is different for you and your child. It is hard to predict how much time or support they are going to need with homework or even just ‘down time’ with nothing to do but read, think or play sport. Children's lives are often filled with ‘things to do’ and we forget how good it once felt to just hang out in the park or on play dates with friends. Try to plan some unscheduled time for your children.
All parents and children have worries or concerns about school at some point. There may be times when you or your child have questions or feel the need to talk to someone outside the family. Kanner Jungend Telephon offers a free, confidential and anonymous service for parents, children and youths. The Online Service (for Parents in English and Children / Youths in English, German, French & Luxembourgish) can be accessed through the KJT website at www.kjt.lu. Their trained staff can answer any questions no matter how big or small.