How to prepare your child for going back to school

Whether you’re a parent to a little one heading through the primary school gate and into the classroom for the first time, or they’re off to secondary school. With searches for ‘getting ready for school’ up by 250% over the past 12 months, the start of the new school year can be an exciting but daunting time. 

So to help you make the transition easier for your child (and indeed you…), life insurance broker Reassured spoke to Liat Hughes Joshi a parenting journalist, author, and commentator on how to prepare your child for going back to school in order to get rid of any hidden anxieties: 

  • Build familiarity 

With young children starting reception or even secondary, you can make the changes the start of the new term will bring more approachable by helping your child get familiar with what lies ahead. It’s human nature to worry about the unknown, so the key here is to make things ‘less so’. 

Attending any settling in sessions so they can see their new classroom/ school, and meeting their teacher is really helpful here. Can’t attend or missed the boat? If primary school is totally new to your child, how about walking past and pointing out alluring features such as fun-looking play equipment outside, or could you attend the summer fete if there is one?

For older kids, get online and see what you can find that aligns with their interests – clubs and societies, sport, dance…Anything that will help your child build positive impressions and associations is good. 

If your child is going to a new school, rather than moving up a year, also, ask around to see if you can find other families with kids going there who you could meet up with during these last days of the summer holidays – it’s not too late. This means there will be at least one familiar face in the class. 

2. Identify any worries and reassure your child  

Whatever age they are, talk together and listen carefully to find out what your child is or isn’t worried about – that way you can address their real concerns. Take these seriously even if they sound a bit silly to your grown-up ears. Young children are often concerned that you won’t be there to pick them up or they won’t be able to find you at home time, or they might worry about practical matters like knowing where the toilet is. Older ones might be concerned about fitting in and the coolness of what they wear (their bag, shoes…) plus they might be anxious about increased workload if they’re heading into an exam year. 

Lots of talking allows your child to explore and express their feelings about school, and lets you gently correct any misunderstandings they might have and provide reassurance or advice.

3. Keep your own cool 

Children take so many of their cues from parents so if you are feeling a little anxious about your little one starting school, an aspect of them changing class or your teen’s GCSEs, do try and be positive (in a balanced, realistic way)about it in front of them. Offload your worries to a friend or family member out of your child’s earshot instead of ‘letting it show’. 

4. (Re-)introduce routine early

Many of us let our days and bath and bedtimes turn a little more relaxed over the school holidays and that’s no bad thing but start to move back towards your term-time routines a week or so before term begins. This will make it easier to adjust than leaving it to the day or two before to re-instigate earlier bedtimes and mornings. 

With older teens, the best you can do is suggest it – explain the pros and cons, but don’t try and impose earlier nights on them – it’ll backfire. 

5. Practical preparations 

Having the morning of the first day run smoothly will help you and your child feel relaxed by the time they head in through the classroom door. 

With this in mind, plan the journey and ideally do a test run a few days before term starts. If you’ll be driving look at where you’ll park and whatever your mode of transport, check which entrance your child is meant to arrive at and for reception starters, whether you’ll be accompanying them into the classroom on day one.   

For primary schoolers and younger secondary school pupils, double check with the information school has hopefully sent you about what your child needs to take with them a few days before term starts and then get it all out the day before, to avoid any last minute rushing about or forgetting anything. Even teens might need a reminder to check what they need on day one, such as sports kit for games lessons. 

And of course, however old they are, do leave time for that all-important first day photo in the morning…a lovely idea is to take a shot in the same place at the start of every school year, showing how they’ve changed over time. 

6. what your child really needs to know before starting reception  

Ask most reception teachers what they would like their new class to be able to do on day one and you might be surprised: there’s really little or no expectation around academic skills and teachers tend to see it as their role to teach their new class reading, writing and maths. What’s far more helpful is if your child can deal with the basics of ‘self-care’ – managing cultery, using the loo independently, being able to take their coat and shoes on and off (try to get Velcro shoes to make this easier) and the like. So it’s definitely worth encouraging these skills before early September. 

Your child’s new teacher will also appreciate it if your little one can listen to and follow basic instructions around the classroom, such as being quiet and sitting still for an appropriate amount of time, such as during a story for 20 minutes or so. That said, don’t worry that your child will be sitting formally all day – modern reception is really play-based and there will be plenty of breaks and less structured time through the day. 

A spokesperson at Reassured comments on the tips for preparing your child for going back to school, “returning to school after a long summer break can be unsettling at the very least for children and a big deal for parents too. We hope that these tips will help you to support your child and make this time a little easier and less stressful for both of you”.

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