The Monday Blues and Sunday Scaries are only amplified at the end of a long break like the December holidays. After all, going back to school in the new year means new teachers, new classmates, and sometimes even a new school to adjust to, so it’s natural that your child has some back-to-school anxiety!
Here are five ways you can help your child handle their back-to-school anxiety and smoothly transit into the new school year.
#1 Let your child know what to expect
You might be able to relate to how uncomfortable it is when things are uncertain—your child is no different! Help them overcome their worries by giving them a heads up of what to expect. If it’s your child’s first day in primary school, try going through their timetable with them, doing a dry run of the route to take to school, and if needed, also role-playing what it will be like to buy food at the canteen.
If it’s not your child’s first rodeo, ensure they are familiar with the latest COVID-19 guidelines and let them know about any changes they can expect.
Besides helping your child prepare emotionally and mentally, discussing these situations are also an opportunity for your child to ask questions, and for you to find out if there are areas your child is worried about, so you can address the back-to-school anxiety early.
#2 Get in the groove with routines and checklists
Do your children struggle with waking up in the morning? If so, it’s definitely going to be tough to adjust back to school after sleeping in during the December holidays! So start waking up earlier in the days leading up to the start of school. And to make sure it doesn’t seem like a “punishment”, take them for family outings— whether to the zoo, for a walk in the park, or even just breakfast at the neighbourhood coffee shop.
It also helps to create checklists with tasks that need to be completed to prepare for each school day—like packing their school bag —so when the first day of school comes, your child has a guide to follow to help them get back into the groove.
#3 Empower your child with choices
Feeling like they can’t control what’s going on around them can contribute to anxiety. So even if your child needs to wear a uniform, let them make little choices about the type of shoes they wear, school bag or pencil case to use, or even the snacks to bring to recess. You can also get them involved in packing their own school bag and setting their alarm clocks—little things that help them feel like they are in charge of their day and curb the back-to-school anxiety.
#4 Ask how their day went
Do check in regularly to see how your child is coping. Avoid questions like “how are you?”, which can lead to one-word answers, and instead, ask open-ended questions which encourage your child to talk about their day. Also, if your child seems reluctant to talk about it, give them space and let them know you are there for them. The goal is to create an environment where your child feels safe to share—when they are ready. This leads us to the next point…
#5 Find different ways to show support
Whether it’s a special snack to bring to school, or a surprise ride home, there are plenty of ways you can show your child you are rooting for them as they navigate their next phase in life!
In fact, the initiative, Back to School with Dad , encourages fathers to take some time off to accompany their children to school on the first day or two of the new term, and offers Virtual Back to School with Dad cards for parents to write notes of affirmation and encouragement to surprise their kids with. The options abound, so get creative!