Back-to-school worries — the fear of starting school

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Is your child struggling with back to school worries? Going back to school or starting a new school is something many children feel anxious about...

Going back to school or starting a new school is something many children feel anxious about. (I know I definitely did!)  It can be tough after having a long summer break of hanging out with friends and family and having fun to then having to transition back to a school routine.

This is something that even adults struggle with after having time off work or going on holiday. To get back into a work routine is difficult, so you can imagine what it must be like for your child!

“Change,” regardless of whether you are an adult or a child, can make people feel nervous. Some people are lucky they can adapt to change quite quickly and even thrive in such situations. However this is not always the case.

I still remember how I felt starting a new school. I would have nightmares before the first day. Some of the things I worried about were:

  • adapting to a new school environment
  • new teachers
  • making new friends (I missed my old friends)
  • understanding the new work,
  • fitting in

I had also moved to a different country, so I had to deal with adapting to a different cultural environment.

These are things that children still face today and will continue to face in the generations to come. School is one of the most important times in our life as it, in many ways, shapes our way of thinking and doing things as an adult. This is why it is important to be involved in your child’s school experience by trying to understand what they are going through.

Dealing with Back to School Worries

What helped me as a child was having parents that understood me and listened to me. It is important that children feel comfortable asking parents questions about school and other aspects of life. I was quite open as a child about talking about my experiences.

My parents would ask me how my day was, what did I do at school, what I enjoyed at school, as well as what I didn’t enjoy at school, so they could explore this further with me. Put yourself in your child’s shoes. After all, you were once a child yourself.

For example, I was very bad at sports in primary school. I hated going to school on the days I had sports as I always came last (particularly in running).

I remember my parents helping me with this. Rather than running away from the problem, my mum and dad would practice with me during the weekend. I did get better and they also tried to make it fun for me, so I started enjoying it.

However not all children will be open to say what is bothering them. Therefore it is important to also be aware of their body language and recognise the signs of when something is bothering your child — for example nightmares before starting school, nervousness.

Among the positive steps that helped me growing up was my parents encouraging me about things I could look forward to doing in school or after school.  

Change is a hard thing to go through, so maybe getting kids involved in activities over the summer where they are interacting with other children and making new friends may help ease their transition.

Get into a routine before the start of school, i.e. getting your child to help with selecting the lunch box, bag, and things needed for school.

Reading inspirational stories about school experiences like first day jitters, feeling left out, or not being good at certain subjects can also help your child understand it is normal and that other children also experience the same things. It can also help them to discuss the experiences and issues openly.

Maleka Mamuji is the author of  School Can Be Cool. School Can Be Cool was approved by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development as a recommended reader for primary-school-aged children. The book can be purchased online on Amazon/Kindle at the following link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/School-can-Cool-Top-Book-ebook/dp/B00NNVOT6Y for £0.99.