Back to school blues
After a summer of freedom and fun, going back to school can be stressful for kids. Children's life coach Lisa Parkes gives her top tips to prepare kids for the new school year.
Going back to school can produce all sorts of emotions – and that’s just the parents. But for kids who’ve had a summer of lie-ins, no homework and doing lots of fun stuff with family and friends, it can be even more stressful. Children’s life coach Lisa Parkes, aka the Smiley Coach has some helpful advice on how to prepare your kids for the new school year.
Create a positive mindset around school
Changing the way we think and talk about school really does make a difference. Children of a certain age develop a perception that school is boring/ uncool /bad (*delete as appropriate*). When we give our attention to what we don’t like about something, that dissatisfaction grows bigger in our minds.
Notice how when you talk about going on a diet, your mind conjures up images of curly lettuce leafs, limitations, no chocolate or wine, hard work and starvation! However, when you re-frame that thought by changing the language you use, your brain responds in a more positive way. So you may call it healthy eating or taking care of your body or energising your body with food.
Avoid the 4 Cs of Complaining, Condemning, Criticising and Comparing
Notice how you talk about school with your children. Do you talk about the teachers you don’t like, the areas where you need to improve, the friends who are mean to you, the early mornings, the stress of the traffic, all the homework? Or do you talk about play dates, after school clubs, successes, friends who are good to be around, goals for the new term.
Of course we don’t have to be happy clappers and ignore the problems that school can create like bullying or homework struggles. These can be discussed and addressed appropriately. However, if we take a view that there is good in everything, we will feel much happier. It’s all about making choices.
Encourage your child to independently address worries
Sometimes we don’t need to fix things for our children. They need to go through their own pain to know how to deal with it in the best way for them. Besides, if we constantly show them that our way is always the best way (it often is but there is nothing like discovering that for yourself), then they think we don’t have the faith in them to do what is necessary.
Sometimes, we don’t want unsolicited advice, we want to be heard, understood and accepted. By simply listening and acknowledging feelings, children feel supported and have the space to explore possible options. Just try it. Try really hard to listen and play back to them what they are saying without jumping in and rescuing them or telling them what to do. You may even be surprised that they come up with their own solutions. Try it with your partner and friends too. They will thank you for it.
Practically prepare your child for school as much as possible
This may seem like an obvious one as children who are wary of change need consistency and predictability in order to feel safe. Being safe to an anxious child is their main concern. They will go to the ends of the earth to ensure they feel safe.
Having enough sleep, getting a good diet, enough water and feeling relaxed will help your child to mentally and physically prepare. The sleep routine is likely to be a bit all over the place after the holidays – maybe they’ve been used to getting a lie in and now that early alarm clock is going to feel like a lightening bolt. Preparing as much as you can the night before school will help – bags packed by the door, uniforms laid out on their beds, lunches made, petrol in car, shoes cleaned. You get the picture.
If your child is still anxious about going back to school, Lisa Parkes also offers a Back to School programme.