Back to school 2021
As the new academic year starts (in the UK), you may well feel worried about your children going back to school and all that it entails. It’s a lot to take in, and it’s normal to have mixed feelings about these changes - adding to the fact that you're quite probably already feeling drained after the summer.
Summer holidays can be hard when you’re a parent or carer, leaving you feeling like you’re running on empty and then you have to work out how to manage the anxiety of your kids (and maybe your own anxiety and stress) going back to school.
Remember that it’s ok to feel tired and over it at this point in 2021.
It is fair to say that this past year has been challenging, with remote learning and pandemics and while there was once a hope that this would all be over by now, we are still very much living with Covid.
Remember that school is a time for your kids to be with their friends - this is such a vital part of their development. Recognise that they may well be feeling differently than you about mixing with people again.
The start of the new school year is even more potentially stressful when your child is moving school, perhaps starting primary or secondary school. There is a big jump between the last year of primary school and the first year of secondary.
School transitions are also a big change for you as a parent.
You may well have made strong bonds with the other parents, carers, teachers and staff at your child’s primary school. This is on top of the mixed emotions you feel as you see your child growing up. These feelings are perfectly valid because they are your feelings and it is ok for you to acknowledge them.
Starting secondary school is quite often tricky for children, but they will settle in as the year goes on.
- They will meet new friends and peers and have to work out where they fit in with their new peer group.
- The schoolwork itself becomes more complicated and they have to take more responsibility for their learning.
- Even getting around and finding their way in a new building is challenging.
How can you help them?
Be ready for them to have more ups and downs with how they are feeling. It’s normal and to be expected that they’ll be nervous and excited - remind them of this. Think back to when you started a new job, for example, and how you felt.
On a practical level, help them get as organised as possible. Having what they’re wearing and their bag ready the night before can take a lot of stress away from the morning. It’s also important to let older children organise this themselves.
The number one thing you can do? Try to focus on feeling a bit more restored and replenished yourself.
If you are calm and reassuring with them, your child will feel more confident that they can get through it. Our children (even when they’re in their tween and teenage years) pick up, sometimes subconsciously, on how we are feeling. By regulating your own feelings, you will help them feel stable.
What can you do to make yourself feel a little better?
Don’t put your emotional health at the mercy of social media. All that information can be overwhelming. Give yourself a break from looking at the news and social media.
Focus on the week in front of you. One thing we have learned is how quickly things change. Do I have what I need for the week ahead? Do my kids have what they need for the week ahead?
Talk to one of your friends (or a friendly counsellor!) who you know makes you feel good to be with and talk with them about how you’re feeling.