As the summer winds down, and you’ve shopped for back-to-school supplies, don’t forget to equip your children with some good advice for making a smooth return to the classroom. The return to school can trigger a range of emotions in parents and children. Parents may feel sadness that extended time together as a family is over, mixed with relief that they don’t have to provide all-day care (and can once again enjoy a coffee in peace). Children may feel excited about a new term, being back with friends, or they could be apprehensive at what awaits them.
The sources of anxiety often vary with the age of a child. For young children starting school for the first time, a main source of anxiety is separating from parents or being away from home. For older kids, anxiety may relate to fitting in and making friends. They may worry about the teachers being stricter, the work being harder and about having lots of homework. It’s a time of mixed emotions, so it’s important to acknowledge any worries they may have, whilst focusing on the positive aspects of getting back to school.
Every child is different but even the most confident can feel wobbly in the days leading up to school, and on those first few days back. Parents have a big role to play in helping their children get ready for school, and helping to calm any fears they might have. Its important children understand it’s OK to feel worried and a bit nervous. Try and remind them what a great opportunity it is – for older ones to explore different and new subjects and for the little ones to learn to read and write.
There are certain things a parent can do to help, like mentioning their teacher’s name frequently. If parents speak fondly and with confidence about the teacher, and the things the children will enjoy doing with them, this will help the child build that relationship with them. It’s a good idea to explain the role of the teacher, especially for younger kids. Tell them their teacher is not just someone who’s going to teach numbers and phonics, they’re also there to care for them. Your child needs to know that if they feel sad or they’re hurt, that they can tell their teacher, this is especially important if they haven’t been to school before. It’s an emotional time for parents too, but be mindful of how your own feelings can impact upon your child. Reassure yourself it will be OK and try not to cry in front of them on the first day.
On a practical level, a week or so before term starts, we try to get our kids ready by ensuring that they’re back in a good bedtime routine.We always return from our summer trip giving enough time for them to get over the jet-lag first, and then get a routine going again. It’s also good to think about their diet for the new term. They’ve had their fair share of treats and ice creams during summer, but now they’ll need lots of healthy fruit and veg, combined with carbohydrates for the extra energy that being back at school will demand.
Monday is the first day back for my kids, and we’ll try and have a calm routine on that first day, so nobody feels rushed. They’re excited about going back, but you’re never certain how they’ll be on the first day, or indeed the first few weeks. I’ve kept my schedule flexible, in case it takes a while to get them settled. And I’ll be early to collect them. Being the last one there might make them feel anxious – and that can make the next day more difficult.
I really feel that when your children have a good start to the school year, and settle in well to their school environment, they’ll be more interested in school, in doing their best, and will enjoy it that much more.
beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent Sally Wilson moved to Beijing in 2010 from the UK with her husband and son. Her daughter was born here in 2011 and both her kids keep her happily busy. In her spare time, Sally loves to stroll through Beijing’s hutongs and parks. She is a (most of the time) keen runner and loves reading: books, magazines, news, and celeb websites – anything really. Sally is also a bit of a foodie and loves trying out new restaurants.
Photos: o5com, Avolore, Bec (flickr)