As the school holidays in Australia reach over the halfway point and the new school year beckons, parents start to focus some attention to what needs to be put in place before school returns. That includes the shopping trips for uniform, stationary and lunchboxes as well as the practical aspects of managing childcare if you are working full time.
For many of the families we see, there is also a sense of relief that it will be easier to manage a predictable routine once school and extra curricular activities start again. For the children in these families however, it can be a HUGE adjustment to go from the relaxation of “holiday mode” when there are less expectations placed on them back to the demands of a full school day.
Couple this with any anxiety your child may have about the new school year be it about academic expectations, separation from you or social pressures, the end of the school holidays and the beginning of the school year can be difficult to navigate.
The instinct for most of us when we are on holiday is to not think at all about what awaits us on our return to reality! Whilst school and its’ demands should not be a focus during holidays, it can be useful to start to talk about it in a casual way. This may be through a social story about the year to come or just through conversations where you mention what they will be doing at school. By opening these opportunities for school to be spoken about, you will be giving them the chance to vocalize any fears or questions they may have. If this is being done regularly and in a very relaxed way, school becomes a normal part of life. This in turn should relieve some anxiety.
Much anxiety when it comes to the school year comes from the unknown. They will be in a new classroom and physical space with different teachers and probably different expectations to last year. If the transition is one between crèche and Kinder; Kinder and Prep; Primary and High School there is even more mystery. To help alleviate this, it can be a good idea to involve your child in an age appropriate way as the planning for school gets underway. Allow them choices in what bag, lunchbox or water bottle they have. Give them the option of what after school activities they would like to sign up for and ask them if there is anything particular they would like their teacher to know about them.
One advantage of school holidays is that it gives everyone a much needed break. The expectations of the year are immense and there are constant demands on all school aged children. This means that when holidays begin, most children will require time doing as little as possible to recharge their batteries! Whilst this is needed and beneficial, if there are no time demands or expectations put upon them until school returns, there can be a very rude awakening at the start of term!
One idea is to insert some structure into your holiday days. This can be as simple as expectations of certain chores each day or ensuring that every day there is an activity which involves concentration and/ or social interaction. Examples of these activities could include bowling; play dates or a planned arts and crafts activity. Set dinner time and evening routines can also help as can ensuring bedtime is not significantly later than it will be during the school year. All of these options will help to maintain some consistency and is likely to have a positive effect on your child’s behavior.
One of the biggest advantages of the holidays ( in theory) is the increased availability of everyone to allow for more family time. Making this time meaningful by focusing on activities done as a whole family together helps to provide your child with a sense of belonging before they enter what is for them an unknown. Additional 1 to 1 time with you is also very important. This may be helping with food preparation or reading for an extra 10 minutes before bed. This will increase their feeling of security and safety.
Once a child feel safe, secure and prepared, the start of the school year should be much easier to navigate for everyone involved!
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