Helping Them Through the Back-to-School Blues
It’s that time of year again. So as the summer gently edges towards a close, so does school creep ever-steadily nearer. For many school kids, this can be an anxious time – whether due to the change in bedtimes, the promise of new classes, classrooms and subject, not to mention the odd intimidating teacher or two. But these concerns don’t just affect the child returning to school – they can and do affect the whole family.
So having spent a summer of playing in the garden, enjoying ice-lollies aplenty and perhaps even a family holiday away from home, how to adjust once more to the old routine? And how to do so while carefully taking steps to reduces any lingering worries and stresses that your child, your family or you yourself may be experiencing?
Here we tackle that very issues, looking at how to recognize issues, and tips and tricks for dealing with them, from small extras that make a difference, like personalized clothing stamps and lunch boxes, to more weighty actions, such as improving ways of communicating and handling acute anxiety.
The first matter to deal with when it comes to those back-to-school blues – whether for your child or the rest of the family – is to learn how to better identify problems. We can’t expect to properly address a situation without understanding what it is, so it is important to be on the lookout for classic stress signals, such as sleeping problems, stomach aches and, the red flag of all red flags, atypical mood swings.
Once you suspect that your child may be anxious about the thought of returning to school, you’ll need to at least attempt to understand something of the root cause. This may not be easy because children – all of us in fact – can be defensive about what might be interpreted as prying questions, particularly with sensitive topics, such as the reasons that underlie any out-of-the-ordinary behavior.
It’s important then to be listening carefully to your child in order to gradually develop an idea of what they are worried about. Might it be bullying? A difficult teacher? The amount of homework? Asking questions about what it is they enjoy at school, or the things they look forward to can be a more gentle way of getting a bigger picture of the issues at hand.
Similarly, you could start a conversation about your child’s friends and ask about how they feel about school. Your child will then have the opportunity to express some of their own ideas through the perspective of a third party. Of course, many children are far more direct than this, and are more than happy to speak very matter-of-factly regarding the issues that they are facing. However, when children are not so forthcoming, it is important to nevertheless provide them with the opportunity to express their feelings and to do so constructively and with sensitivity.
It may be the case that a quick chat, be it with your child, a friend, a schoolmate’s parent or teacher can quickly put the matter to bed. Often, however, our anxieties are not so easily dealt with. When this is the case, there are a number of courses that we can take to help alleviate our children’s stresses.
For example, helping your child to create and agree on a practical school-day afternoon and evening schedule – one that accommodates their homework, of course – can make a big difference to how confident they feel about the workload ahead. Make sure that there is time to relax after having got back home after a ‘long’ school day, and also be sure that heavy meals don’t negatively affect their ability to concentrate. Also, agree that the allotted time for homework must be taken seriously – and that way it’ll be easier to relax and enjoy their free time, too.
Also, look for simple ways to make mundane things a little more fun. Personalised lunchboxes are one idea, while a nice-looking rucksack or bag for their belongings can make all the difference. Clothing stamps are practical, but they also help to provide children with a sense of ownership, which can be important for their self-confidence and sense of growing independence.
Meanwhile, where there are more troubling concerns, such as with overbearing teachers or bullying, it is important to tackle issues head-on. This means contact and discussions with the school administrators in order to raise your concerns. It may be the case that they are others who have brought up similar topics, and so you could be helping other school children, too.
By approaching your child’s anxiousness with calm and structure, you can do much to help them feel confident, even happy about going back to school.