Delight and Despair As School Children Go Back To School.

Hints and Tips / August 25, 2010

As a child I recall being simultaneously intrigued and frustrated by the constant “Back to school” advertisements that sprang up all over the High Street. Being on school holidays I did not need some retailer to remind me of the future gloom that lay just around the corner.

Whether the advert had an educational link or not seemed immaterial. Many advertisers merely seizing the seasonal opportunity to promote their wares. The positive elements to many that soon kids will off the streets is countered by an opposite force – increased traffic as we choose to use cars to ferry kids to school. Shops heralded the process with essential teaching and schooling resources being paraded alongside uniforms, stationery, and  the of course the ubiquitous Oxford set of maths instruments supplied in the same tin box 40 years after its introduction!

The Back to School slogan hovers over the idyllic existence of a school child on the long summer break.  Returning to school means enforced routines, falling light levels as autumn approaches, odd smells from damp children, the appearance of the magic sawdust bucket for the odd vomiting child and the exchange of a cricket and athletics markings for football and rugby posts.

No I didn’t relish school days. Coupled with attending boarding school for a large chunk of my schooling added a further downer.  But I’m not alone.  Clinical psychologists explain that many children feel apprehensive when returning school – especially if it involves a move up to a new secondary school.  Adverse reaction to the new larger environment, the physical scale of the new school in class size, and numbers of teachers can be frightening. Children  move from the comfort zone of their old school where they were top dog with years of experience. The obvious outward signs are children who become anxious and find it difficult to fall asleep, feel sick, cry easily and have gone off their food.  These are clear signs of anxiety triggered by the unknown.  We also suffer from the syndrome as adults in a new environment so it is not age related. They say the condition is the reason why so many adults remain in jobs they dislike.  The thought of changing job or career is beset with the unknown.  We opt to stay put.  Maybe the emotion stirred by seeing our children in some distress activates latent emotions and concerns in adults.  But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The clingy child whose life is devastated by attendance at the new school slowly adapts to the new environment.  Day by day the angst dissipates.  By day seven things are inevitably easing.  By day fourteen they start to feel comfortable.  The trick is to reassure the child that their feelings and concerns are very natural and that most children feel concerned at the start of term and especially at a new school.  Giving comparisons to their feelings become positive in their previous class, year and school helps to reassure that the anxiety will ease.  Self awareness of the symptoms and comparison with past experience will help to reassure.

Not every child can be expected to favourably respond, but the majority do.  As parents, seeing the situation and concerns through the eyes of a child can help quell the fears of this unknown territory, especially relevant in the move to secondary school.

And once we have consoled our children, perhaps it’s time to look in the mirror and reconsider that move we need to take to reorientate our job and career. A staggering 80 per cent of adults are in jobs they dislike, But a move and that new challenge is as just as daunting as that experienced by the child and the new school. Time to reflect on applying the guidance given to your child and allay your own fears and make that move to enhance your opportunities. You know the one –  you have always put off because of your concerns over a move to a new company with a new environment, new people and the feeling of being new and isolated. We have a lot to learn from children!

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