The start of the school year brings excitement, anticipation, nerves. Plus expenses. And stress – for us and our kids.
Children may be returning for more of what they did last year, enjoying the stability of the same school and same friends. Or they might be starting new. It could be Day One of big school, or just Day One of a new school.
As parents, we want to help our children feel comfortable and confident going into the new school year.
So, here are the biggest issues children have at back-to-school time, and how you can help them along.
Who’s who in the zoo?
This one is the big one.
Some children will worry about whether or not they’ll be able to make friends, or that their friends may have ‘forgotten’ them or moved on over the summer holidays. They worry that someone new will come to school and steal their best friend. They are worried that they won’t be in the same class as their best friend. They worry that they might not be allowed to sit with their friends in class because the teacher has some ‘dumb’ seating arrangement.
Friendships are oxygen to our children. They want (and need) a group to belong to. They want to be connected.
It can be tricky, but (if it’s practical) once school is in session, arrange play dates for your younger children or encourage your teens to ring their friends and organise getting together. At a new school you can speak to the staff about after-school activities that might give your child the chance to meet other children that are interested in the same things. Make the effort. Build the relationships.
If you have a child who has additional needs this is often particularly challenging. My recommendation: ask the school for support. Perhaps even ask other parents for support. Every child needs friends. Worry and anxiety drop when friendships flourish.
(As an aside: when we have moved our children to new schools we’ve sent an email to the teacher explaining our situation, offering our contact details, and asking parents to get in touch so our child can meet theirs before school commences. Breaking the ice early helps.)
Know the terrain.
This is a fairly practical one: where is my new classroom? What if I get on the wrong bus? What if my mum isn’t there after school?
Thankfully logistics have practical solutions. You can take your child to school before the first day and walk them through the grounds: find their classroom, the tuckshop, and the bathrooms. You can show them exactly where you’ll be when the bell rings and take them to the bus stop or the train station – or parent pick-up zone if they’re younger or that’s more your style.