As we embrace the start of a new academic year, and with schools being able to return to a new normal, there is much excitement and anticipation for all that lies ahead. With the final items of school uniform and sports kit purchased, shoes polished and pencil cases filled, it is important after a long summer holiday, that we also support our children as they adjust to the new routine of school.

Children thrive on familiarity and feel safe when they have a recognised routine. A regular structure can help to provide a sense of stability – something for both adults and children to anchor onto, especially when there are changes taking place around them, such as starting a new school or a new class. Feelings of worry can make children feel like they are not in control and therefore, reminding your child of their routine can help them. It may even help to give examples of the ways you use routines in their days to re-enforce this message with them.

With busy routines, it goes without saying that sleep is really important for your child’s mental health and wellbeing, as well as their development. Try and help your child build a healthy sleep routine which they can maintain. Going to bed at the same time each evening and staying away from screens an hour before bed and keeping screens out of bedrooms at night, are really helpful ways to encourage quality sleep.

Nobody likes things sprung on them at the last minute and the same can be said for children experiencing any sort of change. Do give your child time to process change and in an age-appropriate way, help them understand timescales. This could be in the form of a sand timer, a visual daily or weekly timetable or just discussing upcoming events, allowing them time to prepare mentally.

Leaving somewhere familiar and starting somewhere new can sometimes feel daunting and unsettling. As parents, we often try to ‘sell’ the experience as exciting. Whilst being positive and encouraging is fundamental to easing our children’s anxiety, it is also important to give them an opportunity to share their concerns and fears with us. Children often fear practical issues surrounding transitions – where will they have lunch? How will they get there? Spend time discussing your child’s fears and reassuring them that it is okay to feel nervous – it doesn’t mean that the change is bad!

Providing children with some say over the way in which transitions happen can ease feelings of worry. This could be choosing a nice activity to do with you after their first day back at school, or choosing what they will have for breakfast before school. Something little for them to feel familiar with and in control of, can significantly re-align their focus.

As adults, we too experience change on a regular basis. Let your children see you experiencing these transitions and discuss how you adjust to change. ‘I went somewhere new for the first time today and I was a little nervous as I had never been before. When I got there, I found my way – it felt great as I was proud that I did it.’ Children are sponges who absorb and then reflect, everything they see and hear.

Routines are so extremely important, but adjusting back into them can be extremely tiring. Go easy on yourself and your child – do allow plenty of down time in a familiar environment to re-connect with you after the excitements of being at school.

Ed Marland, Head of Pastoral Care

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