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Back to school: how to ease kids into class

Children worried about a return to the three Rs? Here are five common problems, from feeling self-conscious to Covid concerns, and how to help.

Those three little words: Back to school. Do they inspire joy or dread into your child, and indeed the whole family? And how best to make sure the return to the classroom is a happy time, whether it’s after post-lockdown (let’s hope no more of those!), after the long summer break or they’re starting school for the first time.

Muddy chatted to Headmaster, Mr Phillip Stapleton (above), at West Buckland School near Barnstaple about problems children face and how parents can help with the transition from long lie-ins and screen time, to getting their feet back under the desk.

1/ Resistance to routine

If they love a long lie-in, start getting them up early a week or so before term starts. If they are prone to lounging around all day, increase their daily activity, practising sports or sign them up for a day at a leisure centre or activity camp.

Where kids have been doing a lot of snacking and grazing, introduce a return to structured mealtimes to reduce the distraction of peckish-ness when their mind should be on learning.

When you’re out on a trip, take a detour and do a drive-by or walk-past school together if it’s not on your normal route. 

2/Fear of being behind academically

Whether it’s due to the six weeks of the school holidays or home-schooling, children may get behind with their work. Try not to use negative language like ‘falling behind’ or ‘catching up’ and stick to positive language, such as ‘reinforcing’. 

Resist the temptation to express worries about being behind with work in front of the children, offer, instead, encouragement to engage with their work or, even better, sit down with them to do projects together.

3/Worries around Covid

All the changes in regulations are confusing enough for parents, but for kids it can be really scary: should I be wearing a mask in the corridors or just in lessons? What about the bus there? Is social distancing still continuing and so on? Your school should clearly outline the school’s expectations and if they haven’t, don’t be afraid to ask for some clarity for your child’s teacher or head of year beforehand.

4/Feeling self-conscious after time away

A lot can physically change for a child in six weeks – weight gain, getting braces or a new haircut – and the thought of being seen in a new way by peers can cause huge anguish.

Children are often extremely self-conscious about ‘fitting in’ at this time so a consistent message at home and school about tolerance and acceptance is crucial. School assemblies should be focussing on acceptance and anti-bullying.

Encourage them to get back into contact with friends outside their close circle, on FaceTime or Zoom.

Ask if schools are organising any ‘ice-breaker’ activities at the beginning of term, even if they are just in the classroom, for example quizzes or outdoor ‘team-building’ activities. These help to break down barriers, even amongst old friends.

5/Hiding their fears

Some children are very upfront about their fears but with others it’s not always easy to know. Telltale signs include a child becoming more withdrawn and spending more time in their room; being evasive; or any change in temperament, from becoming argumentative, seeing more tired or having trouble with sleep.

Want more, more, more? Take a tour

West Buckland School has been shortlisted in the prestigious Independent School of the Year awards for 2021. Join them for their October open days on Saturday 2nd October (Prep and Senior); Wednesday 13th October (Sixth Form). 

Find more ideas here


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