Nick Thrower, our Chaplain and Head of Pastoral Care, writes about how we can help our children settle into school after the summer holiday and at the start of a new, slightly unusual year.

It has been a long time since our children were physically in school for a sustained period of time. We were fortunate to have most children back to Lambrook for the last few weeks of the summer term and they were extremely special times. As we embrace the start of the new academic year, there are things as parents that we can do to ease our children into the term as they adjust to a new routine:

Establish a routine. We all like a routine and children especially thrive on a structured timetable and day – a routine makes children feel safe and secure. It is really important to keep daily timings the same, getting up at the same time in the morning and going to bed at a similar time each night. Ensuring a consistent bedtime routine can also really aid sleep and good rest. Children like to know what is happening during a day, and so if there are going to changes to your usual routine, prepare children for these – don’t just spring them on them; talk about them as much in advance as possible.

Encourage good sleeping and eating habits. Research has shown that good sleep patterns, fresh-air, exercise and a healthy diet help children to be happy and aid concentration when at school. The start of a new term is always very tiring, especially with an earlier start than the summer holiday, with a lot of information to take in. With a long school day, there is a temptation to give our children less healthy snacks and foods. Although we will all need to do this from time to time, do try to offer healthy alternatives where possible.

Encourage independence. Children again thrive on being independent and school is a great opportunity to encourage this. At Lambrook, we equip our children to be independent in many areas, preparing for all that lies ahead in their future schooling and beyond. You will probably notice your child becoming more independent as the weeks progress, but do encourage them to be independent at home too; empower your child to do everyday tasks such as managing their own clothes and shoes and packing school bags. Prepare children to learn new skills in case of an unexpected event (e.g. going to school with other people, moving from class to class, having the right books and materials for different lessons, changing into different uniforms, or managing pocket money). Having the confidence to do these things will set them up for life!

Foster positive attitudes. Don’t dismiss any worries or concerns that your child may express – allow them to ask lots of questions and answer them openly and reassure them that these feelings are normal. If things haven’t gone so well, remind them to persevere, as this will help build resilience. Try not to dismiss any feelings that they share with you, as to them these feelings are very real. Children don’t need you to fight their battles but they do need you to listen and give them a hug!

Communication is key. Keep communicating with your child. Ask your child about their day at school, but don’t push it if they don’t want to talk. Give children time to answer questions and try to make the questions open-ended but not too big. Better to ask, “What did you like about today?”, or “What made you smile”, rather than “What happened in your day?” Children may not want to recount every aspect of their day at pick up – you may find that they talk about things during a walk, over dinner, or perhaps in a weeks’ time.

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