Words by psychotherapist Jane Faulkner
If your family is anything like mine, your school routine will be out the window, you will all be a little holiday feral and the thought of school being just 2 weeks away will make your stomach tighten.
It’s funny how at the beginning of the holidays I always think- what am I going to do with them for 8 weeks? However, now that the holidays are ending I love how relaxed and easy life has become.
The New Year is always exciting and for some kids, overwhelming and anxiety provoking, so here are some tips to support all of you through the transition back to school.
- Start to create a routine that is similar to school time, going to bed earlier and getting up earlier, so that you aren’t all knackered and out of whack in the first week back.
- Start to organise your meal times so they are similar to school time, get back into a rhythm by the time school starts back.
- Get the kids to help you organise their uniforms- check whether they need new shoes or bags, get their stationary, books and everything that they need for school organised and name everything. Running around like a crazy person the day before school will make everyone feel anxious and terrible.
- Start to discuss school without making it a big deal. This is really important; we talk about school being many things- a place to make friends, a place to learn what you can, a place to do your best and a place to have fun. Putting any pressure on your kid about doing well is not good for their mental health or anxiety levels.
- Discuss what your kid doesn’t like about school; share some stories from your school years- struggles and triumphs. Don’t try to fix or save your kid, try to be present and listen and then share what you have understood from what they have said. Ask them for ideas about how it could be different, what could they do or say that might help them? (without any pressure, remember no fixing, just being with).
- Enjoy these last few weeks at home together, see if you can make time to sit down together and play cards, a board game or draw and relax. Allow them some space and quality time with you before the New Year fully takes off.
- Invite some school friends over for some play dates; this can help especially if your kid is anxious about returning to school.
- Start a bed time routine of laying down together and taking 5 deep slow breaths. You could put your hand on your kid’s abdomen and they could put their hand on yours and feel the abdomen rise and fall with the deep breath. Practicing these mindfulness, stress-reducing strategies while they are more relaxed will make them more effective when you need them.
- You may need to re-affirm some boundaries and tighten up your family rules; everything can get loose in the holidays! Sit down together and think about expectations and chores that can be done each day, again its better to do this now before school starts back.
Boundaries, structure and planning ahead sounds very un-glamorous, however, when kids know what is happening and what is expected of them it helps them to feel safe. Having everything sorted and ready for school also means you can take these last few weeks to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
Remember that this is a big transition for every kid. They are going into a higher year level, they may worry about not having any friends in their class, about whether they will like their new teacher, they may have reservations about the difficulty of the school work.
For some kids it’s a whole new school, or they are repeating a year or it’s their very first year at school.
So be gentle, kind and wise – make any talk of school encouraging and positive without being over the top or un-realistic. Try not to put any expectations on them, most kids are great at doing this for themselves! Remind them that you are there for them no matter what and that they can always talk to you if they are worried or upset. Also remind them that school isn’t everything, they have friends, family and neighbours outside of school.
All the very best for the start of the school year.
Jane Faulkner started her career as a Registered Nurse and has worked in hospitals in Australia and overseas. During her career as a nurse, she supported people through the difficult transitions of illness, grief, death, trauma, mental health issues and childbirth.
Jane has a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy, a Bachelor of Nursing, a Certificate in Initiatic Art Therapy and is certified in Equine Assisted Psychotherapist. Yoga is an integral part of her life, she is a Certified Iyengar Teacher and continues to study and teach in the Iyengar yoga tradition. She is an accomplished teacher, therapist, and facilitator and has led many women’s groups and Day Retreats, presented seminars and workshops, and worked with many different community groups and individuals.
Jane is the founder of Equine Assisted Therapy Australia, an organisation that provides training, retreats, programs and individual sessions that aim to provide individuals with a new and authentic ways to grow and learn more about themselves. Connect with Jane HERE.