2011 September 8

It’s always worrying for parents when a child dislikes their new school, or dreads the beginning of another school year. It can seem inexplicable: the child may enjoy the subjects they are studying, and have friends they are looking forward to seeing again, but even so, they may feel ‘down’, worried and even become tearful and frightened at the thought of school.

There are several ways to help a nervous or unhappy child get over the first days of the new term:

Memory banks for both sexes – instead of forcing your child to think forward, encourage them to think backwards: creating a scrapbook about the summer which records their best memories of the school break can be a good way of getting them into the groove of school again. The best way to use a scrapbook is to fill it from the front to the back with memories and from the back to the front with plans, so that a child can prepare pages for school trips, for birthday parties in the months ahead and for half-term ideas, all of which balance out the fun of school and the fun of holidays.

Self esteem for girls – sometimes it’s low self-esteem that triggers a bout of fear so taking a daughter for a haircut, or helping her revamp her wardrobe can be enough to remove the feeling of inadequacy. Don’t suggest it as an answer though, just plan a family trip to the hairdressers or suggest that you go through her school clothing with her while you talk over the problem … that way you can suggest a couple of items that would add to her clothing choices. For older girls, try offering a budget and letting them have a friend round to shop online together – this allows them to exercise the power of choice and to work out how to get the most for their money, both attributes that boost self-esteem.

Self-esteem for boys – often boys struggle with their feelings, so getting them involved in an activity where they can express their emotions, such as drama, can be the simplest way to release fears and tensions around school. Sports, unsurprisingly, are also a great safety valve, but rather than football or after-school activities, enrol him in a mixed age sport like a martial art. A class where they will be able to see and hear older people than themselves coping with challenges, making fools of themselves and getting over it, and winning and losing in public gives them the chance to learn the skills they need to feel secure at school. A martial art also teaches boys how to care for their appearance and clothing and to be polite in public: key features of a successful school career.

2009 August 28

school girlsIf you’re little one is heading for school for the first time, or changing schools this year, it can be nerve-wracking to send them off to a new place. And if your own first day at school wasn’t fun, you probably expect the worst. Here are a few tips to help you, and your child, cope with the first day of term:

Food – most schools have strong rules about eating, but make sure that your child’s school-bag or backpack has some high protein snacks in convenient pockets: almonds and raisins are good, as are yoghurt covered fruit and nuts or some snack size cheese portions. Many children get low blood sugar mid-morning and mid-afternoon and having something to snack on can restore their sugar levels and their energy.
Clothes – it’s very important that kids conform to uniform rules … but it’s also important for him or her to fit in. Instead of buying everything on the school uniform list, buy the minimum and see what your son or daughter comes home complaining about – often you’ll find that only newbies wear a certain listed item and that the ‘cool kids’ have a more generic clothing code like a black sweatshirt instead of the school’s own black jumper, or a plain white polo-shirt is worn for after-school games rather than the monogrammed one that the school said would be needed. If you haven’t overspent, you can then buy these items and allow your child to feel he or she fits in.
Kit – new pens and pencils are the only compensation a kid feels about heading back to school, so even if last year’s stationery and equipment is still okay, splurge a bit for them to feel they’ve got some lovely stuff to show off.

And don’t overdo it when they get home – if you act as if they’ve done something amazing, they will expect to be greeted like a returning hero every afternoon. Just give them a little treat and a low key welcome home.

2009 August 6

schoolIf you’ve been shopping in the past week, you’re bound to have seen the ‘back to school’ aisles in the supermarkets and department stores, stacked high with school bags, school stationery, school lunch-boxes and school clothing … and for many of us that stirs strong memories of the misery of September looming over us.

Anyway, if you’re heading back to school, or college, or outfitting somebody who is, think about what they actually need, rather than getting seduced by the crafty wiles of the supermarkets, who just want you to spend a lot of money.

•    If you have a child who takes packed lunches, this year’s theme lunch-box will relate to some cartoon or TV character. Don’t fall for this if your budget is tight, instead, buy some stickers relating to the character, and let your little darling decorate last year’s box with this year’s hero. Not only will you save money, it’s a way of keeping a child quiet on a rainy summer day.

•    If you have to buy clothing, try to stick to a theme colour, especially for college. If you have, say, six polo-shirts, three blue, three white, you don’t have to worry about what you wear with them because whatever else you buy, as long as it works with white and blue, will colour co-ordinate.

•    Choose a formal shirt for interviews, visits or other events. These days, many colleges have firms and businesses coming into the college, or even work-fairs where companies set up stalls and students get the chance to pitch themselves as work experience candidates or future employees. Having your formal clothing ready at the beginning of the year means you don’t waste an opportunity.

•    Get sportswear now. A couple of T-shirts and vests and some shorts mean that your child or college age student is much more likely to take part in organised sports because the kit they need is on hand. Healthy bodies make healthy minds … and smaller waistlines.