While lots of children are looking forward to going back to school and catching up with friends, for some children and families this can be a time of worry and uncertainty. Here are some top tips to prepare your child as they go back to school.
1. Every child is different
This means that it is normal for one child to love school and another to find it a lot harder. If you know a child who is anxious about going back to school, create a quiet relaxed space (e.g. going for a walk together or a drive in the car) to listen to their worries and talk them through together.
2. Change is always challenging
Talk to your child about the different changes they have managed in the past. Help them see that they got through it and it’s okay to feel scared and excited.
3. Get organised
There are a lot of things you can’t control in your child’s school life, but you can help them do a trial run of the journey to and from school, get their uniform ready, and pack their pencil case. It may also help to start earlier bed and wake up times to get them used to the new routine.
4. Help them make good choices
Your child’s friendship group will make a big difference to how they feel in school. Talk to them about the qualities of a true friend - e.g. they will make you feel good about yourself and be kind. Friends won’t make you feel sad or do things you don’t want to do. It’s more important to have a few good friends than lots of ‘friends’ and followers who don’t really care about you. See Kidscape’s ‘Guide to Friendship’ for children and ‘A Parent’s Guide to Friendship’.
5. Help them be confident in being themselves
Most bullying is targeted at ‘difference’ and so it is important that your child feels confident in their own skin. Let them know that their uniqueness is what makes them brilliant. If they are struggling with their identity, seek out charities and groups that can support, and help them spend time with others who are like them.
6. Help them stand up for others
Make sure your child knows what bullying is (deliberately hurting someone more than once, when it is hard for them to defend themselves). Encourage them to stand up for others who are being bullied and not to laugh when people are cruel. See Kidscape's 'Help with Bullying and Relationships' booklet.
7. Teach them how to handle conflict
There will be times when your child has fall outs with friends, and they may even find themselves in a bullying situation. Teach them to be assertive. This includes learning how to own their personal space by standing or sitting up tall, speaking in a calm steady voice, and practicing saying no to behaviour they don’t like. This is a skill we can all learn for life!
8. Help them to understand that we can't please everybody
There will be people – children and staff - who they don’t get on with. Help them think about what they can control (e.g. being polite and respectful to others). Be clear that while not everyone may like you and want to be your friend, no-one has the right to hurt or embarrass you. If this happens, they should seek help.
9. Guide them to getting help
As children get older, they might find it harder to tell you if they need help or something has upset them. This is part of growing up but it’s important that they know there is always someone who can listen. Help them list 5 people they could turn to if they needed advice.
10. Let them know you are always there for them.
Your child will face challenges. How you react will make a big difference! Always stay calm and let them know that whatever happens you will sort the situation out together.
Being a parent or carer is tough and school days aren’t always easy. For over 30 years, Kidscape has supported children and families when times at school get tough, particularly giving support and practical help with bullying situations.
We run free Kidscape ZAP workshops with 9–16-year-olds who are going through a bullying situation and need practical help to build their confidence. Children who attend our workshops see a significant reduction in experiences of bullying, increased confidence, and better relationships so there are steps you can take to keep your child safe. We also operate a Parent Advice Line, so if you need help, reach out.
Lauren Seager-Smith, CEO Kidscape