These are all questions that some of our children have when going back to school or starting school:
Does Sam still want to play with me?
Can I keep up with Maths?
What if that girl from fifth grade teases me again?
Will I get a nice teacher?
The concerns range widely. For some, it’s the social aspects of the classroom that are of particular concern, while for others it’s anxiety about academics.
The prospect of the first day of school after the summer vacation can trigger a lot of thoughts in your child.
It’s actually something that takes up a lot of time on children’s mind the last few weeks before school starts, and they might not share them with us so it is important to be aware of the signs that your child is worried about going back.
Most importantly, as a parent, you need to understand that it is perfectly natural that it can be difficult to imagine returning to school when you have been away for a long time. Then it’s just a matter of listening and supporting and giving the child a loving nudge that you are here if they want to talk and if something is on their mind about going back to school.
But If the child was already struggling with school before the summer vacation and has a stomach ache about it or can’t sleep, it’s a different story and we need to step in now.
Focus on the positives:
For most children, there will always be something positive that draws them in. It could be something in the after-school program, group interaction or an upcoming camp trip and we can try to focus on that.
But if there’s no pull at all, you need to be very aware because then something is wrong.
Listening can be enough:
Make sure to ask the child what the concern is based on. Remember to listen and show the child that you understand what is difficult and accept how they feel (don’t judge, contradict or fix just now to fix it – just listen and understand).
Do you need to involve the school:
Perhaps the conversation is enough on its own, but it may also be that the problem is so big that the school needs to be involved.
To begin with, you can involve the class teacher, and then you can seek support from the school’s support worker and then possibly the management. In this way, a whole system is set in motion and you and your child are not alone about the issues plus you have placed awareness on it from day one.
This is really important to do. Because every day a child is unhappy at school is one day too many.
However, as a parent, you must also be careful not to let the worries take over too much. Therefore, remember to give your child time to get used to everyday life when it starts again and try to focus on other things than only the anxiety or worries that your child. Try to find the balance between putting awareness on the worries and showing them that there is more too life than only the challenges they have.
It’s okay not to look forward to going back to school. You shouldn’t expect your child to come home and say that it’s been fantastic. So, leave room to be tired and not have to talk a lot about what happened during the day. Give space and support the child that it will be okay and no matter what, you are here for them.