How to cope with the back-to-school blues


After the school holidays, with changes to routine and later bedtimes, the return to school may be causing some anxiety.

Parents worry as their child moves from the familiarity of home or nursery to primary school. Some feel that they are losing their “baby” as they enter full-time education, while others fear their child is finding it hard to cope with the full school day.

For many children, entering primary school is the moment they move from unstructured free play to more carefully organised activities, where they have to acquire techniques such as waiting their turn, finding their voice in a group, listening to others and playing together. You can help them adjust.

Those starting secondary school are just as likely to be concerned; many say they feel anxious about practical issues, as well as dealing with work and friends. Common concerns include remembering equipment and knowing where they need to go, as well as increased workloads.

Children acquire an awareness of “self” through interaction with others. Starting school — primary or secondary — is an opportunity to discover their own identity.

These beginnings can also be perceived as opportunities to encounter new experiences. Parents can help children make sense of their anxieties by normalising them and putting their fears into context.

Professionals advise parents to consider their child’s transition as a normal developmental step and to encourage them to embrace the independence.

Teach them to be organised — packing their school bag the night before, using their timetable to ensure they have everything and familiarising themselves with the school layout.

Encourage them to feel excited about the friends they are meeting and the experiences they are having. But at the same time, reassure them it is perfectly normal to feel a worried. Finding this balance will enable them to cope with new experiences in the future.

Dr Nikki Teper is a chartered clinical psychologist working with adults and children

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