Every year has its challenges and excitement, commonly known as the back-to-school ‘jitters’- but is this year different to others?
How can you and your child remain calm and enjoy the school year ahead?
Kristen Strahlendorf, Educational Psychologist from the Family Tree Therapy Centre helps us understand how to cope with the back-to-school jitters for parents and children.
It’s how your child feels that counts
Parents can help ease their child’s school anxieties by talking about it. Parents can help their children in practising conversations, general daily school activities and help their child through the establishment of a routine.
Understanding how your child feels requires setting time aside, asking questions and seeing how they react to certain scenarios.
Look for warning signs such as swings in moods from one extreme to the other while allowing them self-expression. In this way, parents can ask probing questions to ascertain why their child is anxious or irritable.
Generally, children learn through observation. Parents need to show their children their excitement when returning back-to-school hiding any household or financial issues. Children will emulate your reaction; this is why staying positive is always needed to get the back-to-school momentum going.
Make it exciting!
The day before school starts, make your child a nutritious lunch box. Create a steady routine of making lunch with them. Focus on placing low-sugar and non-processed foods in their lunchbox. This will aid your child’s energy levels, allowing them to be satisfied and focused throughout the day.
On the day school starts, parents should be up early – providing for sufficient time to get ready, have a hearty breakfast, and extra time to arrive at school and accompany their child on their first day. This creates great routines in not being late reducing unnecessary stress while showing support and excitement for the day.
When your child finishes school, ask them about their day and take a genuine interest. For some parents, this may seem trivial, but for your child this may be a momentous day making friends, meeting new teachers and learning new routines and concepts.
New grade, new things
Manage your child’s expectations of the new year and new grade. The year will be more challenging than the previous. You can already start preparing your child with some reading, general maths and timetables. This will help them recall the work from last year, while preparing their minds in getting into “school-mode”.
Parenting isn’t easy – sometimes it’s us who have the ‘jitters’!
Sometimes parents have more back-to-school jitters or ‘covert anxiety’ than their children.
Parents need to overcome this by talking to a family member, friend and even the teacher. If your concerns are greater than you can express, seeing a psychologist can help you to identify what it is exactly that is making you feel uneasy. This can help answer those burning questions while putting your emotions at ease.
If it’s your first time parting from your child as they go to big school from Grade R, or your child moving to high school or a new school, all emotions are relevant. You need to understand what your emotions mean and how you can place strategies in place to cope with them.
Additional concerns point to a global pandemic that is lingering around, placing parents in precarious positions in deciding what would be the best decision for their children amplifying the back-to-school jitters.
Covid-19 in 2021
As we move forward into 2021, Covid-19 still anchors us psychologically to the ‘missed’ 2020 year. Parents and children are still subconsciously processing what happened to 2020 while recalling how school became virtual and full of hygiene protocols.
For some parents the back-to-school jitters usher in concerns around what will Covid-19 mean for their child’s schooling, their safety and social development. For your child concerns around socialising, keeping their distance and sanitising may create concerns and other jitters.
Also prepare for the worst, make sure you are virtual ready, as the countries situation could change at a whim. This will allow you and your child to transition smoothly to changes in the schooling environment.
Parents need to keep their composure, while placing strategies that help them overcome these issues. Parents need to know that tough decisions need to be made, and that its okay to try new ways of teaching your child, make sanitising fun and an everyday thing, while creating virtual or socially distant fun ways of letting your child interact with their teachers, fellow pupils, family and friends.