©Caroline Witten-Hannah for Auckland Therapy Blog, 27 Jan 2018.
It is really common for children to feel anxious about returning to school after a long holiday break. New class, new teacher, a break from friends and a change in routine being just some of the issues that raise anxiety.
What should parents do when their children raise this or it shows in their behaviour?
Firstly listen to them, allow them to talk about it as much as they need to. Don’t dismiss their worries but rather offer solutions and help them problem solve any issues that come up.
Normalise their anxiety and say that most children will be feeling the same as you at the beginning of a new school year.
Focus on the positives about going back to school and maybe look at photos of school friends and activities.
Arrange a play date with a school friend that your child has not seen for a while.
Go up to school with a ball and have a game on the field or on the courts together. Familiarise your kids with the school again.
Adjust your routines so that they go to bed and wake at the right time for school at least a week before school starts.
Plan school lunches together and maybe go shopping for healthy summer lunch foods. Sometimes anxious kids forget to eat which is not helpful.
Keep talking about school in a light and positive way and don’t become anxious yourself, as children are very good at picking up on parents anxieties.
Remember that worries grow bigger when they are internalised and not shared with others so keep the subject of school open in everyday family conversation.
On the first days of school if your child complains of a sore tummy or an ache or pain somewhere explain that sometimes when people are nervous this can happen but it will go away soon. Do not keep them home as avoidance of school only increases and reinforces anxiety and sets up a pattern of avoidance of anxiety provoking things.
Maybe a little special treat can be offered as an incentive after the first day back. Simple things like an iceblock or having a play date or going to the park after school.