Our partners at Role Models share ways to support your child’s transition back to school.
As we near the end of this academic year, we begin to think about endings, transitions, and changes. Transitions, however, occur through all stages of life - transitioning from milk to food, bed to cot, nappies to toilets and then as we get older transitioning between classes, schools, jobs, and relationships.
Although transitions and change are inevitable, they are often met with anxiety and a degree of fear, even by adults who understand the need for change. ‘Fear of the unknown’ is, to some degree, a universal experience. However, there are many practical ways in which you can support your children. Easing their return to school after the summer break is a great place to start.
Nobody likes things sprung on them at the last minute and the same can be said for children experiencing any sort of change. Give your child time to process change and, in an age-appropriate way, help them understand timescales. This can be in the form of a sand timer, a visual daily or weekly timetable or just discussing upcoming events with older children, allowing them time to prepare mentally.
Feeling out of control can be a very uncomfortable experience. Providing children with some say over the way in which transitions happen, can ease some of their discomfort. This can be choosing whether they hold your hand as they enter their new school or letting them choose a nice activity to do with you after their first day. Something little for them to feel familiar with and in control of can significantly shift their focus from feeling out of control.
Leaving somewhere familiar / starting somewhere new can be daunting and unsettling. As parents, we often try to ‘sell’ the experience as exciting. Whilst being positive and encouraging is fundamental to easing our children’s anxiety, it is also important to give them an opportunity to share their concerns and fears with us. Children often fear practical issues surrounding transitions – where will they have lunch? How will they get there? Do not underestimate the emotional upheaval of changing classrooms, leaving a setting or even trying a new extracurricular activity. Spend time discussing your child’s fears and reassuring them that it is okay to feel scared – it doesn’t mean that the change is bad!
As parents, we too experience changes on a regular basis. It is important to process these with your child and model how to handle uncomfortable feelings and anxieties. ‘I went somewhere new for the first time today and I was a little nervous as I had never been before. When I got there, I felt great as I was proud that I did it.’ Children are sponges who absorb everything they see and hear. Let them see you experiencing transitions and show them how you manage.
Whether it is doing a practice run of a new journey, looking at pictures of a new school or even finding opportunities for your child to socialise with new friends, help your child prepare for the new transition in as many ways you can.