Returning to school after a long summer break can be daunting for children. Here are some suggestions on how to support children who are anxious about going back-to-school.
What is anxiety?
Education.gov.scotland has a really helpful article about returning to school. It describes anxiety as 'the natural reaction we experience when we feel under threat'. For example:
It can be triggered by thinking about a past, current or future threatening situation and is more common when events are unpredictable or new. This sense of threat or danger leads to an automatic response.
Our brain reacts with what is known as a ‘fight or flight’ response and releases hormones in our body. These hormones prepare the body to react to danger so we may notice that our muscles are tense, our heart is beating faster and our breathing is quicker. We can feel light-headed or experience butterflies in our stomach. We might feel worried, afraid or stressed.
Returning to a new class or even a new setting can trigger anxiety.
Even when a child has got over the hurdle of the 'first day', they may still need help talking through their experiences and getting used to the new routine.
How can we support our children?
Here at OWPS, we have been focused on helping the children settle into school after the summer holidays. School routines have been re-established, which help maintain a sense of consistency and security for the children, and teachers, TAs, and our Learning Mentor have been on-hand to help those who are struggling.
There are also lots of things that we can do at home to help our children. The City of Edinburgh Psychological Service has created a very useful one-page document on Helping your Child Cope with Anxiety. It focuses on techniques for:
- Understanding anxiety
- Relaxation and distraction
- Dealing with anxious thoughts
- Facing your Fears
- Helping parents look after themselves too
Young Minds has a comprehensive guide to helping children with anxiety.
The NHS has a useful article on Anxiety in Children.
The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families Mentally Healthy School initiative provides a comprehensive Anxiety Tools for Parents.
Where to go if you or your child needs support
If you have any concerns about your child/ren's mental health, you can get more information and advice by visiting chums.uk.com, the Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Service for Children and Young People.
You can also contact your child's class teacher to raise any mental health and well-being concerns by emailing email@example.com, using the website contact form, or emailing your child's year group (all the year group emails are listed here).
If you are concerned about your own mental health and well-being, you can read more about how to access further advice and support by clicking here to visit Mind's website.
Mind states that despite the pandemic, the NHS is still encouraging people to come forward for support with mental health and well-being, with the GP cited as the first port of call.