Anxiety and nerves seem to have kicked in for both parents and their children alike as schools (colleges and universities) begin to open their
doors for the start of another academic year. Research shows that reasons for children and young people’s anxieties and stress about returning to school include anxiety about:
- Coping with school work and their general performance
- Starting a new school
- Friendships and fitting in
- Asking for help and how to ask for help
- Having new teachers
Parents too have their own anxieties about their son or daughter returning to or starting a new school. Childline’s research and recent experiences has shown an increase in counselling children over the last year with serious concerns about going back to school or starting a new school.
TOP TIPS For Children & Young People going Back To School:
- See this as another milestone that you are capable of, even if it is with help from someone else. Remember that the fear of something is usually much worse than the thing itself! Step up! to your fear and stare it in it’s face
- If you are moving to a new school, see it as an opportunity to make new friends and have new experiences rather than something bad or negative
- Ask for an opportunity to view the new school, if it is not too late, or go to visit it again if you have already viewed it. Take a tour around the area and familiarize yourself with its surroundings. This may help you to feel more comfortable on the first day.
- Be as prepared and as organised as you can for your first day back at school, or starting your new school. Or ask for help from parents or school mates
- Have a plan to complete school work on time and follow through with it. Sticking to your plan will help you to have more time for socializing and enjoying fun stuff
- Get enough sleep to recharge your batteries so that you have enough energy during the school day.
TOP TIPS For Parents
- Share your concerns about your son/daughter returning to school with someone else so that you are not carrying it alone
- Whatever the situation with your child’s school (college, university), be strong and stay strong for them as well as for yourself. Manage your own emotions so that your son or daughter is not placed in a position of having to help you to manage your emotions
- See my article on School Refusal
- Check you with your son or daughter what their thoughts are about going back to school and most importantly listen. This might seem like stating the obvious, however, the number one tension between young people and their parents is that they feel their parents do not listen to them. Listen also to their feelings and to what they are not saying and reflect that back to them.
- Stay calm in the sight of your child’s anxiety and panic about returning to school or starting a new school. Your calmness and composure will help them to compose themselves to some extent.
- Depending on your child’s age, help them tot be as organised as possible for their first day, and on an on-going basis. Being organised and prepared on the first day can help to take a lot of pressure off them and gives them one less thing to worry about.
- Become aware of warning signs or stress leading up to the return to school.
- Sometimes stress and anxiety can manifest itself into physical symptoms. For instance, stomach aches, headaches, vomiting, sudden outbursts of aggression, self harm or crying. Check out with your son/daughter what else is going on for them at the time of having these symptoms. If it is a case of self harm, do get self harm help from your doctor where necessary.
- Take responsibility for ensuring your children get to bed at a reasonable time dependent on their age, to give them a better chance of coping with the school day. One of my nieces used to insist that her 3 year old son would not and could not sleep before 11.00pm. The nursery school constantly reported that he was tired, hyperactive and aggressive. He was clearly deprived of sleep. After working with her and guiding her for just one evening on how to get him to bed at a reasonable time for his age, she feedback a week later to say that he had been going to bed at 7.30pm for the whole week and had slept through the night. The nursery school feedback to her the same week about the difference in his behaviour and energy levels.