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Returning to School

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Returning to school after the holidays can be a stressful time for both children and parents. It is normal for nearly all children (and adults!) to experience some back-to-school nerves that should reduce over a couple of weeks.

Many children display some initial separation anxiety from parents, however tantrums when separating, problems sleeping alone or refusal to attend activities without parents, are ‘red flags’ that your child may need additional support. If you are concerned about your child’s behaviours talk to their class teacher.

As a parent you may feel anxious and worried too, especially if your child is starting school for the first time. The more confident you feel, the more confident your child may be. Acknowledge your worries and talk about it with your partner, friends or trusted adults at school e.g. chaplain or school counsellor.

Ways to help making the transition back as smooth possible:

  • Normalise and validate: Ask your child to share with you what s/he is worried about and what it feels like – do not dismiss their feelings. Reassure that it is not uncommon to feel nervous about returning to school. Discuss and demonstrate ways to help manage anxiety e.g. deep breathing, mindfulness. An excellent, free, easy to use app teaching mindfulness is Smiling Minds (download from for age 7 to adults.
  • Routines: Children thrive on consistency and predictability. Outline their day-to-day school routines and include everything from getting ready for school, packing lunch boxes and schoolbags, to when they have extracurricular activities before and after school. Having a family calendar on the fridge with weekly activities and important dates will help with routines and save valuable time throughout the school year. Use a different highlighter to highlight activities applicable to different family members.
  • Sleep: Ensure that your child gets to bed at a reasonable time as getting back into school routines may be tiring. Sleep guidelines suggest 11 to 13 hours for preschoolers (3 to 5years), 9 to 11 hours for school aged children (6 to 13 years) and 8 to 10 hours for teenagers (14 to 17 years). Children starting school for the first time will be exhausted therefore don’t plan too many after-school activities initially.
  • Healthy eating: Provide your child with a healthy food and snacks, and create opportunities for exercise. Research shows that children who eat healthy and are physically active perform better in school.

Web Resources:

Kidscount –

Kidshealth –

Parent easy guides –

Raising children network –

Cynthia Geldenhuys
College counsellor/Registered Psychologist MAPS