How you can prepare your child for the return to school

With lockdown homeschooling and broken term times hopefully long gone. Now, it's time to navigate the start of a normal 'back to school' year with some expert advice and tips from London-based kids confidence coach, Nadine Shenton

back to school M&S

Goodbye, Summer Holidays. Hello, School Gates!

With the children back to school soon – and hopefully the start of a full year in the classroom. Some children will be raring to get back to normality  For others it will be a daunting and challenging time.  Over the last 12-18 months many children have lost their confidence and the change in routine will be tough.  Many won’t have seen their friends for a very long time and the thought of being apart from their parents or main carer is likely to cause some anxiety also.

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Back to school

Back to School with Confidence

Nadine Shenton, founder of Confidence in Kids is a specialist children’s confidence coach.  Here she shares her expert advice so that your child’s first day back is a happy one.

  •  If you think it’ll be okay, so will your child

Children take cues from those around them. So it’s important that you address how you’re feeling about your child going back to school.  If you feel calm and prepared then show this to your child, they mirror our emotions and will feed off your happy, positive vibe.

If you are feeling anxious about things, drill down and work out what is worrying you to find the answers if you can.  Chat to your child’s school to find out how they’re addressing safety precautions.  Whatever it is you’re worried about, take actionable steps so that you feel at ease.

  • Make a worry list

Ask your child to write down if something is worrying them about their return to school.  Their biggest worry might not be what you thought it was. Maybe they’re concerned about being away from home each day, that you will miss them, who will feed and walk the dog, maybe they’re anxious about how safe it will be when they return.  Ask them to write down their concerns.  The simple act of writing things down is calming and positive. Then chat through each concern with understanding whilst remaining positive. Focus purely on your child, keeping your mobile and any other distractions switched off.  Really listen to them – your child just knowing that you’re really listening and hearing is so positive.  Reward them as, together, you work through each of their concerns.

  • Ease off on the academic pressure

We know that children have lost a lot of learning time over the last 12-18 months but piling on the pressure will only make things worse.  If your child is happy and confident about the return to school, your enthusiasm will be welcome.  But for those who are struggling with the change, the most important thing in these first few weeks is their wellbeing.  If your child feels calm, they will be better placed to learn.  So, ease off on the academic focus and concentrate on the fun stuff whilst always remaining positive and supportive.

  • Friendship groups may have changed

It’s important to be honest about friendships.  The chances are friendship groups will have changed and things won’t be the same as they were before.  It’s important to be honest and realistic about this with your child.  If they expect their friendship group to be exactly the same, they may feel very sad if things are different.  Explain that this is a great opportunity to get to know classmates all over again.  And if there are any changes reassure them that this is natural and not personal.  If they do have a close friend, perhaps suggest walking to school together during the first week back.

  • Let them embrace their emotions

The next few weeks will be a rollercoaster of emotions.  Not just for children!  There will be happiness and anger, excitement and fear. It’s important to let them go through these emotions.  Don’t block them and don’t try to fix them.  At least not straightaway. Roll with them, acknowledge them and then help your child understand why they’re feeling a certain way. A good way to keep communication open and keep the trust between you and your child is to ask at the end of a day ‘how are you?’, ‘tell me about your day?’ and then listen.  Truly hear and repeat back to them what they’ve said. This way, you will make them feel safe, understood and confidence will grow which is key.

Nadine Shenton
Nadine Shenton, founder of CIK

> Nadine Shenton  is a specialist children’s confidence coach and the founder of Confidence in Kids launched 2015. For more information visit: CIK

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(Back to School Images from Marks & Spencer)