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Four tips to tackle back-to-school emotions

Back-to-school can be a time of mixed emotions for children, whether they are new or returning students.

As we welcome in a fresh school year, Royal Far West (RFW) Psychologist Emmy has some top tips for making the transition into the classroom as easy as possible for both children and parents alike.

Tip 1: Normalise their feelings

It can be a big change to go from preschool or long summer holidays back into the classroom. There’s a lot of uncertainty and it is perfectly normal for children to feel a bit nervous or worried. Try having open and honest conversations with your children and use phrases like “I can understand why you might feel a bit nervous” or “Going to school can be a bit scary, and exciting too.”

Tip 2: Listen with empathy

If kids want to talk about their nerves, try to listen without judgement or trying to problem solve. Sometimes we all just want to say our worries out loud and feel like someone heard us. Even if their problems sound small and silly to you, it’s not the case for them. If it sounds like they’re getting very stuck on a particular idea, or coming up with catastrophic scenarios (“everyone will hate me”) you can offer some gentle challenging words such as “I’ve heard you mention this before, can you tell me more about why you think that? Have there been times when that wasn’t true?”

Tip 3: Know that they will be tired

It’s important to know you will most likely have more tired and moody children while they ease into their new routine. To help manage this try to stick to a routine at home that ensures they are getting enough to eat, plenty of sleep, and enough physical activity. This might mean having some of their favourite meals planned for breakfast and dinner, making sure screens are off well before bedtime, and that active kids are given a chance to run around after sitting still all day in class.

But remember even with all this, it’s a big change and kids are tired and overwhelmed. Kids will often show their worry and stress by ‘acting up’. If they are moody, sassy, more difficult than usual, try very hard not to take it personally and try not to turn it into an argument. “It seems like you’re tired and a bit grouchy after school, that’s understandable. Let’s take a break.”

Tip 4: Seek support

Reach out to the school if your child is really struggling. Schools have lots of experience with kids who are anxious about attending and can put in place ideas to make it less stressful for yours. In some instances, they may connect you with the school counsellor or other local supports to assist

Children who have a NDIS plan can also seek additional support from our services, to help them achieve their goals. For more information or to access this service, please complete the form on our website.