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How to Support Your Child Through Back to School Anxiety

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For children, the Christmas holidays can be a whirlwind of excitable yet disruptive activities, and while this can be a well-earned break from their studies, returning to school in January can be quite the contrast, igniting feelings of anxiety.

Dr Richard Anderson, head of learning and development at High Speed Training, shares his advice for supporting your child as they head back to school.

Remind your child of the positives 

Dr Anderson says, “You can help your child feel more at ease by encouraging positive conversation about things your child enjoys about school.

“Mentioning they’ll be able to see their favourite teacher again, hang out with friends, and attend after-school clubs they really enjoyed attending will help to rebuild positive associations they have with school.”

Encourage your child to talk openly about returning to school 

Dr Anderson says: “A change of routine is something that adults are naturally more accustomed to than children, and parents can often take for granted how tough adjusting can be.

“Remind your child that you are there to listen and help if they are finding the return to school difficult. Acknowledge that you understand how tough it is but that it will get easier with time. During the first few weeks back at school, check in with them daily to ask how it’s going and really understand what they are struggling with and how you, or their teacher, can help.”

Continue to organise fun activities beyond the festive period

Dr Anderson says: “Returning to school in January after a busy, fun-filled Christmas break can prove quite the contrast for children. Providing them with plenty of activities, both stimulating and relaxing, outside of school can create the balance they need for a healthy mind.”

Don’t pile on the pressure

Dr Anderson says: “The second half of the school year can be a lot more challenging for your children, with many approaching end-of-year exams. It is important not to pile on the pressure.

“As your children readjust, they will become more confident with their learning, but for now, it’s important to allow them time to relax after school as much as possible.”

A good bedtime routine is key 

Dr Anderson says: “It may seem obvious, but a routine that allows good quality sleep is vital when your child is returning to school.

“Understandably, routines may have slipped during the Christmas season, but the energy and focus needed for school requires sleep. Introduce “wind down time” at least an hour before bed, and try to reduce screen time and video games as much as possible. Instead, encourage your child to read or listen to a good book.”

Communicate with teachers 

Dr Anderson says: “It’s natural for children to be anxious upon their return to school; however, it’s important to recognise when our anxieties escalate beyond the norm.

“If you are concerned with your child’s anxiety levels, be proactive and reach out to teachers to understand how your child is getting on and identify opportunities for support.”

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