Helping New School Year Nerves!

At this time of year, many mums and their children start to get a little more nervous than usual. This is particularly true in families sending a child to school for the first time, as well as families with children starting new schools (including high school).

While there are dozens of things we can do to ensure our children have the best possible start to the school year, these are just a few things that we really should do to help our children (and ourselves) feel ready to start school.


The social stuff

If children are starting new schools have them spend time with peers they share a class with. Perhaps you know who some of their friends because they live in your neighbourhood or street. Perhaps your child went to pre-school with them the previous year.

Children who have good relationships with their classmates will be more confident - and even excited - about going to school compared to those who don't know anyone, or who have poor relationships with their classmates.

The psychological stuff

If there are nerves, these can sometimes be overcome by helping your children become familiar with the school environment. Perhaps you can take them on a school tour before school starts. Many schools have staff available for at least a week prior to school recommencing.

When children know where their classroom is, where the assembly hall and the office are, and are familiar with their environment they may feel less nervousness. It can be even more helpful if they can meet their teacher ahead of time and begin to form a relationship with him or her.

Finally, it is really, REALLY important that YOU, as a parent, are calm. Emotions are contagious. Children will feel your anxiety or discomfort (if you have any) and feed off it, becoming anxious themselves. Don't get excited either as this may be caught and changed into anxiety. (It can kind of feel the same to a young child.) Instead, be calm, reassuring, relaxed, and positive.

The routine stuff

Expect that routines will need to be adjusted. It can be helpful to create a new routine in the week leading up to school to help children go to bed on time, wake up on time, and dress and eat breakfast on time. Routines reduce anxiety (usually), but they take time to learn and become familiar with.

Sleep

One of the most commonly overlooked recommendations, however, relates to sleep. During school holidays the days are long, routines are relaxed, and children typically alter their sleep patterns substantially. Getting our children back into a regular sleeping routine is challenging, but a recent study indicates it is well-worth the effort, and may be one of the greatest facilitators of successful schooling: the researchers found that a good night's sleep is linked to better performance in math and languages - subjects that are powerful predictors of later learning and academic success.

It is widely accepted that executive functions (the mental skills involved in planning, paying attention, and multitasking, for example) necessary for successful academic performance are boosted by good-quality sleep. Lack of sleep, or poor quality sleep, is a risk factor for low academic performance. So how do we do it?

  1. Know how much sleep is required. As a general guide, toddlers and pre-schoolers need around 12-14 hours per day, primary school-aged kids should get 10-12 hours per day, and teens will usually want 9-10 hours. (Grown-ups do best with about 8 hours.)
  2. Keep everyone off devices for the final 60 minutes before bed. This will help the brain settle down.
  3. Aim for a consistent routine and bed time for our children. Research shows that going to bed at the same time every night (or within 30 minutes) is great for our brains and our bodies.

What do you do to prepare your family to go back to school. Share your top tips with us on Facebook and Twitter #back2school.