What to do if your child is anxious about going back to school

If your child is feeling anxious about going back to school, here are some things you can do to encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling.

As the holidays come to a close, for some children, the thought of going back to school can make them feel anxious and nervous. Here are some things you can do to make going back to school easier and less stressful for you and your child.

  1. Chat about school in your ordinary everyday conversations as the holidays come to an end. Keep it light, keep it positive.
  2. Ask how they’re feeling about it and whatever they tell you, accept, validate and normalise their feelings. 'You’re right, it is a bit nerve-wracking on your first day back – same for me and work. I bet there are 30 other kids in your class feeling exactly the same.'
  3. Plan a few interesting things to do in the evenings and at weekends in the next term, to give them something to look forward to and remind them that school is only a part of their week.
  4. Establish a routine ‘family feedback’ time which makes it normal for everyone to air and share worries from their day, as well as the fun things that went on. This could happen over dinner time and involve questions like, ‘What was the silliest moment of your day? What was the most interesting fact you learnt today? Did anyone say anything kind or mean?” Have a look at more of our conversation starters for ways you can encourage your child to talk about how they’re feeling.
  5. Teach them some simple breathing techniques or a grounding exercise to use at school if they feel anxious during the day.

Breathing Techniques and Grounding Exercises

Teach your child to do this breathing technique if they start to feel anxious at school. Say to them:

“Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, hold your breath for 1,2,3… breathe out slowly through your mouth. Do this three times.”

This grounding exercise can help your child turn their thoughts outwards and away from their anxious feelings inside:

Look around and name in your head, not aloud, the following:

  1. Name four sounds you can hear
  2. Name your three favourite colours in the room
  3. Name two things you can smell
  4. Name on thing that’s great about you

Conversation Starters

Questions game:

Have a little question and answer competition. You can play this in the car or walk on the way home from school. See who can ask the other person five questions and get five answers either in the shortest time or before the next traffic light you stop at. Questions could be things like, ‘What was the best bit of your day? Who was the last person you talked to at school? What colour socks did (friend’s name) have on today? What was the most difficult part of the day?'

Tip: get them to practice not only answering but asking questions too.

Starter for ten:

Start the conversation with something that has changed for you recently, to weave into talking to your child about something that has changed for them. For example, ‘there are three people in my office who are leaving and I’m pretty sad about it… I think one of your friend’s at school are leaving too aren’t they? How do you feel about that?’

Tip: the aim here is to encourage a two-way conversation, rather than lots of questions and answers. 

Click send:

Write a letter, message or email to a relative or friend of you and your child who you haven’t seen in a while. Encourage your child to write about things they’re doing, and what has changed recently.

Tip: Sharing memories and experiences can highlight how there are new things going on for everyone.

For more conversation starters, visit our #Take20 Parent's Hub.

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