Leona O'Neill: How to beat those back-to-school blues

With the summer holidays almost over, both parents and children may be feeling anxious about the start of a new school year. Parenting veteran Leona O'Neill advises you to get organised now and stay positive

Starting school is a big change for your child but it's also a big change for you too

THERE is light at the end of the school summer holiday tunnel. At last, we are mere days away from when the first school bell tolls.

Some of us will have felt like we have been through Hell and back this summer. Some of us will have been out a fortune on childcare, others out money on entertainment. Some of us will have barely held on to our sanity.

It rained relentlessly, there was zero routine, there were late nights, the struggle to get kids out of bed in the morning and the battle against perpetual boredom. After about a week, most of us were marking off the days on the calendar like we were in prison, praying for September and a return to the normal routine and school-term structure.

However, for some parents, the new school term will be met with worry and concern if their child is venturing into the education system for the first time or transitioning to big school.

Nichola Greene from Parenline NI, a free and confidential listening ear service offering advice, support and guidance for anyone caring for or concerned about a child or young person, explains that worry is completely normal in the parenting journey.

"A lot of the time, getting ready for back to school can be stressful. This can be heightened further if your child is starting school for the first time, when there is even more to consider and worry about," she says.

"What will it be like for them? Will they make friends? Will they cope? These concerns are normal and part of the parenting journey."

To help ensure the transition goes smoothly, Parentline NI has put together some simple steps to help make the process as simple as possible – for parents and children.

Nursery school is a massive step for any child, never mind parents. It's never too early to help develop your child's organisation skills. Start by preparing your child for nursery by asking them to help with small, simple actions on a regular basis, getting them involved in packing their lunch bag or setting their shoes out.

Talk to your child about nursery and the structure of his/her new day. Get them excited about making new friends and if they have a new uniform, let them try it on.

Take the time to sit with your child and talk to them about any activities they can help with around the house for example, putting their toys away or helping to set the table for dinner.

Have your child try on their new uniform and shoes a few days before they start in case there are any adjustments to be made and to help 'break-in' the shoes.

And it's not just the practical things that need attended to – your child's emotional wellbeing is just as important. Starting school is a big change for your child but it's also a big change for you too.

Both of you may be experiencing anxiety as well as excitement. Letting your child know that these feelings are normal and that you believe they will do great at school will help them to feel positive.

Show your child lots of love and support and express how excited you are for them starting school. Your child will get this positive message and know they will be able to cope and have fun.

Consider how you will manage your own feelings on that first day. Even if you are worried or upset, keep these feelings from your child. You want your child to feel confident about going to school, so manage your time so you are not rushed in the morning.

When your child starts school, it is such a big change in the parenting journey and in family life. It is perfectly fine to be worried and it's also equally acceptable to feel sad, because this is another chapter in your child's development.

Talking about this can help, so if you have any worries or concerns give Parentline NI a call for free on 0808 8020 400.

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