Back to School
Going back to school can be a shock to the system. After enjoying 6 weeks of summer, children are suddenly propelled back into a routine where they have to wake up early, interact with peers and learn from teachers.
For some children this routine is welcomed, and school is seen as a place full of opportunities, friendships and fun. For others, there might not be such a smooth transition back into school life. Unfortunately, children may not always feel able to communicate to adults what they are finding difficult at school.
Carers may feel a lack of control over what a child experiences at school and how they will react. We can’t control a child’s school life, but we can learn to spot the signs that indicate they may be struggling and there are things we can do to support them.
Signs of a difficult start back to school:
It is scary to tell someone that you are struggling. Children find it just as scary to tell adults when they are facing difficulties. It is important that we can spot the signs that a child is having a difficult start to the school term:
- Unwillingness to go to school. We have all heard of ‘pulling a sicky’, but if a child is consistently asking to not go to school, there may be something more serious going on.
- A change in temperament. If a child begins to act out-of-character this could be a sign that something is troubling them at school. They may be more anxious and reserved than they were previously, or they could become extroverted and distracting in the classroom. Any change in behaviour could be driven by underlying concerns about school life.
- Challenging behaviour in the classroom. ‘Acting out’ could be a way to distract people from what is really going on and the insecurities they may be feeling.
- Worsening performance at school. If a child’s schoolwork is suffering, this may either be the cause of the anxiety or a result of another distraction.
We don’t like to think of any child having to experience bullying but unfortunately it is a reality. Over half of all children have some involvement in bullying, whether it be as a perpetrator, victim or witness.
Being bullied can be a very scary time for a child. It can affect their self-esteem, behaviour and academic work. It can be easy for a child to blame themselves and think ‘there must be something wrong with me’.
It is important that you can reassure them that bullying happens to many people, and it is never the victim’s fault. Bullying is very common, and it is important that children don’t feel they are alone.
What can I do to help?
Whether a child is being bullied, falling out with friends or struggling with schoolwork there are many ways that you can support them.
- Talk openly. Whether it is asking them directly or letting them know that they can come to you if they need to. Even simply keeping up regular day-to-day conversations can let a child know that you are there for them.
- Listen. If a child begins to tell you about their day, put the time aside to listen. Show the child that you are actively listening to what they are saying by giving them your full attention. You could summarise back to them what they have said to show that they have been heard.
- Reassure. Rather than dismissing their feelings, offer compassion for their problems and let them know that they were right to talk to you.
- Find out more. If a child begins to hint to you that something is wrong, try to find out more detail about the problem. For example, what parts of their schoolwork do they struggle with and what subjects do they enjoy?
What should I avoid doing?
- React negatively. For some people the immediate reaction to a child performing poorly in their schoolwork or misbehaving in class can be one of anger or disapproval. Before reacting to the immediate situation, try to take a moment to calm down and dig a bit deeper to find out what may be going on for the child. They need to know they can trust you and confide in you without judgement.
- Minimise the child’s feelings. No matter how big or small the problem may seem to you, if it is affecting the child then it needs to be taken seriously. It can take a lot of bravery to open up to someone and telling a child to ‘deal with it’ or saying ‘I’m sure they didn’t mean it like that’ can stop them from confiding in you in the future.
- Keep the child at home. You may want to protect them by keeping them home so that they don’t have to face the problem. However, this will probably make it more difficult for the child to go back into school and can confirm their fears about going to school.
School can be a challenging time, but it can also be a great one. By supporting a child when they are struggling, you can help them to make the best of their time in school. There will no doubt be challenges but also the opportunity to make amazing memories.
If you would like to find out more about how to support a child in their transition into the new school year, information can be found through the following websites: