Many children are going back to school in September, some for the first time in months, and it’s natural for them to feel a bit anxious about starting a new school year.
By Kate Duggan
Don’t forget to talk about the positives of returning to school, such as seeing friends and playtime. Dr Emma Millar says, “Discuss what they’re excited about. Children pick up on how we’re feeling, so if you remain calm and positive about them returning back to school, then that will really help them to feel reassured.”
Prepare Your Child
If your child hasn’t gone back to school yet, find out what will be different compared to before the pandemic. Explain to your child what to expect. Younger children may benefit from acting out some things at home, such as keeping their distance when queueing. Clinical psychologist Dr Emma Millar recommends asking if the school can “take pictures or videos of the changes so your child knows what to expect, as that will aid the transition process.”
Talk to Your Child
It’s important children know they can talk to you about their concerns. Some like to have your full attention while others prefer it when they don’t need to make eye contact, such as when you’re driving or cooking. Recognise that you can’t ‘solve’ their concerns, but you can discuss coping strategies. If your child doesn’t want to talk, try reading together and talking about how the character feels in different situations.
Get Back into a Routine
Most children prefer some level of routine. Your child may have been going to bed later recently, not showering as often and having more screen time. Help them adjust to a more structured routine over a couple of weeks.
Make Sure they get Enough Sleep
Work towards returning children to an earlier bedtime, including at weekends. Children need more sleep than adults – six to thirteen-year-olds can need up to eleven hours of sleep a night.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation can help children and adults to feel calmer and more in control. Older children might benefit from Headspace’s guided meditations. For younger children, try the ‘Sitting Still Like a Frog’ book and CD by Eline Snel.
All children feel anxious and worried sometimes. However, up to 15% of children experience anxiety disorders, which can stop them from enjoying day-to-day life and lead to more long-term issues. So don’t be afraid to ask for help: your child’s school may be able to offer advice, or your GP may be able to refer them for extra support.