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5 tips on starting or going back to school

The summer holidays are drawing to a close and tensions might be running high for pupils and parents alike. Here are a few tips to help.

September is often a month of new things – a new school, a new class or teacher and even new friends. This can be an exciting time for many, but a time for anxiety for others. But there are a few things parents and children can do to allay some of those fears.

Getting a routine

Establishing a clear and consistent routine is important for children. You could write out the steps in the routine and rehearse them with your child. In the evening, this could include doing homework, playtime, brushing their teeth, having a bath, and reading before bed

Early nights 

Getting back into a school sleep schedule won’t happen straight away! A few weeks before school starts, try to help your child get into the habit of going to bed earlier. Gentle winding-down activities such as bath time and reading before bed can help your child relax.

Encourage independence

Children who play an active role in preparing for back to school – such as choosing and organising school supplies or uniform – are more likely to get excited about going back to school, which in turn eases their fears. Is your child old enough for chores like emptying the dishwasher or making lunches? Daily, age-appropriate tasks will help your child gain independence and confidence.

Choose the right backpack

Backpacks that are too heavy or worn improperly could result in muscle strain, headaches, and neck pain. Try to choose a backpack made of sturdy, lightweight fabric with wide, padded straps that will support your child’s shoulders. Watch that they don’t sling it over just one shoulder.

Practice the route to school

If you’re walking or catching the bus you can practice your ‘school’ run. This can help prepare your child for their first day – what things can they see, how many doors can they count – and help you to organise your morning.

Establish healthy habits

Involve your children in choosing and preparing healthy lunches and snacks – even take them shopping so they can choose what they would like.  Also, try to stick to regular meal times.

Limit screen time

Back to school is the perfect opportunity to re-establish screen time limits. Why not have the whole family “unplug” in the evenings before bedtime? Choose a spot where everybody can charge their devices overnight. Use an alarm clock instead of a phone to wake up in the mornings.

Talk about first-week worries

Reassure your child that being nervous is natural – even for teachers. You can help your child cope with these feelings when you:

  • Let them express their fears. Perhaps you can offer stories of your own first-day when you were a child.
  • Teach them to breathe deeply and slowly to calm their nerves.
  • Talk through the scenarios that worry them. For example, if they’re worried about who to sit with or talk to on the first day, help them plan a strategy and rehearse it so they’ll know what to do.

Celebrate the start of a new school year

If you celebrate the first day of school, your kids will see back-to-school as a transition they can really enjoy. Try a special back-to-school tea before school starts, complete with cake, balloons and educational gifts. And don’t forget to take a picture on the front step in their first-day-of-school outfits. It’s going to be a great year!

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