A stress-free approach to returning to school
Yes, it’s only July when this is being published and the old term is just ending. But that’s a really good time to start thinking ahead to September. The beginning of a new school year can be challenging for children, especially if they’re starting school for the first time, or have moved to a new one ... and stress for children often means stress for parents. Preparation on your part can be a great help, so follow these tips to plan ahead and help your kids have a smooth start to the year.
Establish a routine
- Over the summer, later bedtimes and/or getting up later tend to be normal, but this won’t help when school starts. Work out term-time bedtimes a week or so before school starts, and phase them in so the children have time for their sleep patterns to adjust. Gradual changes to their sleep patterns tend to be less disruptive than sudden ones.
- See my blog about sleep for tips on how to encourage a good sleep schedule; well-rested children will be calmer and better able to focus at school.
- Discuss the new timetable with your child and create a weekly planner of homework and after-school activities. It might also help to do a practice run of the morning routine and the route to school so you know how much time it will take.
Prepare in advance
- If your child hasn't attended school or nursery before, have a look at my tips on starting school for the first time
- Even if they are familiar with school, the summer often means preparing for new routines, teachers or classmates. Well before the end of summer, make a list of all necessary school supplies (stationery, clothing, etc).
- Take a trip to buy as much as you can, but don’t worry too much if you can’t get everything on one trip; leaving plenty of time before school starts will mean you have other chances, and a list will mean you’re less likely to impulse-buy. A last-minute rush or finding that some vital part of the uniform isn't available in time will simply add to any anxiety your child is feeling.
- Then, the day before, make sure everything your child needs is laid out ready to be picked up right away. Uniforms washed, ironed, and folded. Pens, pencils, notebooks, and anything else needed should be packed into the school bag the night before, so you’re not rushing around trying to find everything.
- Prepare as much as you can of the day’s breakfast the night before, and make sure your own clothes and belongings are ready too. Don’t forget to check that your alarm clock is set, and the batteries are fresh!
- It will also help if any potential arguments about clothes or meals are defused by discussing them the night before. When you’re not in a rush, both you and your child will be calmer and the conversation will be less likely to become a fight.
- Make a note on the calendar of what extra items might be needed on what day as soon as you have their timetable; PE kit or swimsuit, recorder, etc.
A few final tips
- Have a space set aside for children to do their homework and revision. Make sure it is quiet and free of distractions. If your child isn’t getting in your way with books all over the kitchen or living room, you’ll be more relaxed, and so will they. A routine study space also helps the child to focus; being in this set space helps them to think “okay, time to study now”! Check on your child every so often to see if they’re stuck on anything you can help them with, and make sure the homework is all finished before it’s due.
- If you like aromatherapy, citrus scents can help you feel alert and more optimistic, while calming scents such as lavender and ylang-ylang will relax you and your children after a stressful day and encourage restful sleep.
- There are plenty of ways to ease anxiety around a change in routine like the start of school. For example, instead of leaving the TV on in the mornings, play some music; soothing and relaxing, or lively and cheerful, whichever you and your children prefer.
- Relax! See my blog on self-care and my general stress management blogs for other tips on dealing with stress, worry and anxiety of all kinds.
- Many children suffer some level of anxiety or worry when they've had freedom over the summer and have to go back to a more structured routine during term time. But a few continue to feel anxious about school all the time. If that's the case, I may be able to help. Please get in touch.
Debbie Waller is a professional hypnotherapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues. She also offers EMDR which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD and publishes hypnotherapy-for-ibs.co.uk for those interested in using hypnotherapy to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Debbie owns a multi-accredited hypnotherapy school, Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training and offers further training for qualified therapists via CPD Expert. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words, editor and contributor to the online magazine Hypnotherapy Training & Practitioner, and co-author of The Hypnotherapy Handbook.
For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593.
Researcher & drafter: Rachel Waller.