Going back to school? How to help your child deal with difficult emotions

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Elijah Cruz - Digital Communications Officer
Tuesday 02 January 2024
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For children and young people, the return to school can be a stressful and worrying time. The start of a new school term after Christmas can often make children feel overwhelmed.

In this blog post, we offer some tips on how you can ensure that your child will feel more confident and secure about their return to school. Some of these include speaking to them about how they're feeling, celebrating how far they've come and developing a routine for them.

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1. Ask how they're feeling

Talking about returning to school with your child can help understand how they feel. Even if your child doesn’t seem too worried, it’s important to ask how they feel about returning to school. If they are worried, ask them what they feel anxious about. It’s easier for you to support them if they have a particular concern. Reassure them it’s normal to have these worries and praise them for sharing them with you. Worries, anxious thoughts or anxiety can happen if your child feels out of control. It helps to find things they can control and start from there.

2. Understand that anxious feelings are a normal part of school transitions

It is completely natural for children to feel anxious about school transitions. For many children, the thought of entering a new school or a new classroom is like stepping into the unknown. This is especially true after the winter holidays, where parents and kids have spent more time together than usual.

Transitions happen at all stages of a young person’s life. From nursey to primary school, and later on, the transition from secondary school to university. Each stage brings its own bag of emotions. Many parents and carers feel worried about seeing their child having anxious feelings. It is normal to want to see your child feeling happy and confident about starting school. But speaking to your child about these feelings can make things easier for both of you.

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3. Focus on the reason why your child is anxious about returning to school

Trying to find a reason for why your child is having anxious feelings about returning to school can be challenging, particularly if your child struggles to express their feelings. But getting to the bottom of why they are feeling this way is the first step in giving them the support they need. There are many reasons why a child may not want to return to school. Some of these reasons include a child being bullied or falling out with friends. As a parent or carer, you are not alone on this journey. There are many ways you are able to work with your child and navigate them through this challenging time to give them the support they may need.

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4. Develop a routine which allows them to unwind after school

Lifestyles and habits tend to change over the summer holidays. Many children may have found themselves in a routine where they go to bed later and wake up later. After school activities tend to go on pause over the holidays, and days might have been more relaxed than usual. The shift back into school can be a stark transition.

There are many activities a child can engage with to help make this transition smoother. Establishing a routine which allows them to relax and have fun after a day of learning can be beneficial for both yourself and your child.

5. Celebrate how far they've come

As we enter the new term, every young person will be entering a new stage in their academic life. For some families, it might mean their child going back to university. These transitions mark a significant milestone for your child’s life and is usually a time full of mixed emotions.

Take this moment to celebrate their growth and your role in shaping their story. Despite the challenges that may come with this new chapter, know that it has been your guidance and support which has set them on this path.

Going back to school can be a challenging time of year. But with these tips in mind, you can make all the difference for your child. If you would like to read more about how we can help, visit our parental support page.

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