The team here at Lifestart are all back in full swing after the summer holidays, September always seems to be such a busy time. I’m sure it has been a busy week for most families as well, whether it’s starting school for the first time or going back after the summer holidays. It can all prove to be a little hectic, well it certainly was in my house! Although I really welcome the concept of a regular routine – up in the mornings, everyone out, and the best part – early bedtimes.  I know this is a work in progress and will take a few weeks for everyone to settle back into our ‘new way’ of life but we are on the right path.

How was the first day back? Was it – tears, tantrums, and cries of “I don’t want to go to school!” Or were they skipping happily in the gate without a second glance back!  As a parent, I don’t know which is worse, worrying that they are upset when you aren’t there or the thought that they do not need you.

The uncertainty of the pandemic has certainly been a vast contributor to the additional stress and worry families experience in relation to school.  It has been a very strange eighteen months where kids have been in school, then home-schooled, in school, and out again, chat about confusing. Hopefully, we are off to a good start for this school year and they get to enjoy their school experience whether it’s their first year or their last.

So what can we do to help alleviate this anxiety or stress for both us and our children?

You will have already done the usual uniform, school bag/stationery, lunch box shopping and have all ready for the big day. I have always found this a great way to prepare them so that you just don’t wake them some morning and say right ‘It’s time to go to school’.  They are actually excited to use their new things. Preparation is key for any situation.

Stories are a fantastic way of coaching children for various situations, there are lots of books about starting school with lots of different scenarios, this gives your child an insight into what to expect or how to manage situations they may come across. It is also an opportunity to validate feelings and communicate.  You can tell them that you will miss them but it’s okay, it’s only for a little while. Or that it is fine to be nervous, everyone gets nervous when they begin something new. Perhaps they are just so excited and can’t wait for all the fun things they are going to do or friends they will meet! It’s all about keeping the lines of communication open and that you understand or can support their feelings whatever they may be.

If you are anything like me, you want to hear all about their day and everything they have done, and if your kids are anything like mine, the response I usually get is ‘nothing’ or ‘I forget’. I have now learned not to ask this. For some children, they just want to unwind after school, relax and forget about it for a while. It’s the same as us coming home after a busy day at work, you don’t want to go into all the details.  So now I ask, ‘did you have a nice day?’ Here they can answer yes or no and if they want to go into detail they can and if not, so be it. You are interested but no pressure. However, at bedtime be ready for the full rundown.

As the first week goes in kids just seem to be exhausted, having all this activity, early mornings, and excitement.  It can sometimes be just too much to take, that’s when we can get tears or changes in behaviour. This is where our patience comes in… we need to understand what a big adjustment this can be, especially now in the midst of a pandemic, as they have been home for so long in their own bubble.  So if they need time to cry or let all the frustration out, let them, if it is safe to do so of course. When they have finished, talk about it, empathise with them, a cuddle or a kind word always makes it seem better. Shouting only adds fuel to the fire and gives you that horrible feeling of guilt after all settles.

Finally, reward YOU and YOUR CHILD for your bravery for making it through the first week, you all made it!  Have a relaxing movie night together, a trip to the park, whatever you and your family decide. Simply recognise you are doing well!