Welcome back families to a new school year.
Hoping you all had a wonderful break over the holidays, enjoyed some sunshine and had the opportunity to rest up and share some quality time with the family.
As we begin a new school year there may be many mixed feeling returning back to school.
Here are some tips to help ease the start of the school year.
How to Help Children Settle into School
Some children take the transition in their stride and settle into school with very few bumps, others do better than you would ever have expected. Some children however really struggle with the transition. Anxiety, sadness, reluctance to leave you, angry behaviour and other other regressions are very common.These difficult reactions sometimes pass quickly, but often they can remain for several weeks and months after the initial start.
It is one of the most heart-breaking things in the world to watch your child struggling with their new place in the world.
Here are some tips that can help:
Allow Their Emotions
Perhaps the most important thing you can do if your child is struggling is to allow them to feel what they are feeling. Don’t try to tell them to “stop crying”, say “you’re OK, you don’t need to be upset” or “you will be fine, don’t worry!”. These don’t help to reduce anxiety, but they do dismiss the child’s feelings, which can add to their upset. Instead say “you’re feeling really sad, would you like to talk about it?”, or “I can see you had a hard day at school, would you like a hug to help you to calm down?”. Allowing your child to express their emotions (which may also manifest as anger, whining and shouting, as well as sadness) is the healthiest response here. Make sure you don’t add to their feelings though. There is a difference between empathising and projecting your feelings onto the child!
Ease the Drop-Off
School drop off can be incredibly stressful for some children. The hustle and bustle, lots of bigger children, younger siblings and hundreds of parents can be overwhelming. Arranging with the school for some support in this area. Similarly, sometimes drop-off is better if somebody else does it, allowing your child to say goodbye to you in the safety of home. They may be calmer when dropped off at school by a partner or friend.
Keep Your Own Anxieties in Check
The time when your child starts school is a highly emotional stage for any parent. Try to not add to what your child is feeling by keeping your own nerves and sadness at bay. Anxiety is catching. If you’re really worried about your child, there is a high chance they will sense this and it will undermine their confidence. Try your hardest to stay calm and collected. Lots of deep breaths, positive affirmations and working through your own feelings, so that you can be a pillar of strength and confidence in your child.
Take off the Pressure at Home
Now isn’t the time to push your child to tidy their room or their toys, or to pick up on every little misdemeanour. Cut them some slack. I’m not suggesting you become permissive, but relax your boundaries a little and let things slip for a couple of weeks while they settle in. Turn a blind eye to rudeness for a little while and allow home to be a place where your child is safe to relax. For the first couple of months after starting or returning to school, it’s common for behaviour at home to be tricky. This is your child’s way of discharging after a day of holding everything in at school. It’s a great compliment to your parenting skills! It means they feel totally safe to be authentic with you!
Give Them Practical Tools
Separation can be really hard for some children. Giving them a tangible, physical, way to connect with you throughout the day can be really helpful. For instance, you could create matching friendship bracelets, or even just coloured wool/yarn tied simply. When you tie them on yourself and your child say “this bracelet connects us. Throughout the day when you are sad and miss me, you can touch it and know that a little piece of me is with you and I will do the same”.
Watch Eating and Sleeping
Starting school is a huge activity for little children. Making sure that they get enough sleep and enough food is so important. For some, this may mean that they need a little emergency nap when they get home from school (which may mean they need a slightly later bedtime to compensate), others may need their bedtime brought forward for a bit. School also means the end to intuitive eating throughout the day, which many children struggle with. Snacks on the way home from school (not even waiting until you get home) can help, as can a snack after dinner, just as bedtime starts.
Meet With the School
If things are still tricky after a few days, then ask to have a meeting with your child’s teacher. Explain what is happening and ask if they have any suggestions to help. Remember, teachers have dealt with this many times before and may have some ideas you haven’t thought of. They may also have a different view to you, for instance, some children are fine once they are in the classroom, out of the sight of parents.
By Sarah Ock-well Smith
In addition to our SEL programs (Social and emotional learning) and to further check in and look out for our students, all classes will take part in daily wellbeing check-ins with your child.
This may look different in every class however the younger classes will be using visuals to discuss this and check in with the students whilst our older students (Gr 3-6) will take part in an online daily check in (Created by Berry St) where children will be able to check in with how they are feeling and seek/request support from a staff member if needed. At St Augustine’s we want to ensure all our students are settling in well into the school year and are feeling safe, happy and supported.