Back to School – Managing emotions

Do you remember that ‘Back to School’ feeling?
A mixture of excitement, fear, trepidation, uncertainty and curiosity.

Maybe you still even feel it a bit now on Sunday nights, or at the end of a period of extended leave before you go back to work.  Physically going back to work, is going to be a huge shift for many of us over the coming months.

In my house we are currently having a lot of conversations about change and sharing emotions as 3 of my 4 children are transitioning to new stages. 

If you want some practical tips on the preparation for going back to school, you can find them here in a previous blog post. https://www.educatingmatters.co.uk/blog/category/secondary-school/

With my 4th child starting secondary school, it marks the end of an era. 17 years of doing the school run.

I wanted to focus on the emotional implications.

How do you feel when your child reaches a big milestone?
Starting school, starting university, officially leaving home – People keep asking me how I feel!

To be honest I feel excited about all the opportunities the next phase brings. I regard the main job for parents, as being to raise an adult. So this is just part of that journey.

With all my children I am doing my best to nurture their:
🙌 Independence
🤷‍♀️ Creative thinking
😊 Emotional Intelligence
🙋🏻‍♂️ Social skills

Children feed off our emotions. My daughter understandably felt quite scared, nervous and uncertain the past few days. I tried my best not to dismiss or talk her out of feeling that way. I just wanted to give her a space to sit with those emotions by acknowledging and empathising.

Being an ’emotional container vessel’ for your child takes lots of practice and I am still learning on the job!



Ask your child to tell you 3 feelings they have about returning to school. 

Then, ask why they feel each thing.
For instance, if they say “Excited, scared, nervous” you might respond “Excited, and scared, and nervous. Tell me about excited.”
Be relaxed in your facial expression and body, get down to your child’s level, perhaps hold or touch them and just listen.
Ask your child to describe where in their body they feel those emotions.

Acknowledge the feelings:

Your goal is not to talk your child out of the fear or worry, which will just make them feel dismissed or alone with the feeling. Instead, offer empathy and understanding.
“That is a scary thought. Tell me more.”
It is important to show your child that all feelings are acceptable and it is safe to share their feelings without judgement. Validate and normalise their feelings and experience. Here are some ideas
 “You feel worried about returning to school. You don’t know what to expect. I can see you’re so excited to go to school and see everyone”

Empower:

“It might feel scary on the first day or for the first few weeks. What would help you to feel more prepared. How can I help you?  What could you do to help yourself?”

Help problem-solve:

Instead of just reassuring your child, empower them by problem-solving.  Let them come up with solutions.  “How are you going to remember what to bring in on which day?  What is a good way to go up to someone and ask if you can play with them?  What happens if a stranger speaks to you on the bus?”



Other practical ideas to provide time and space for emotions

5minute ritual of connection at the beginning and end of the day, in their bed or on the sofa, giving 100% of your attention and love.

Role play different scenarios with your child, especially those they feel uncertain or worried about.  Such as walking up to say hello to a new child in the playground, separating from you at the school gate or meeting a new teacher.  It is so powerful to act out real-life situations, to problem solve, practice social skill, and build an image of what something might look or feel like when it actually happens. 

Storytelling whether that is reading a book about a child going to school or actually telling the story of a new, scary situation.  If your child can make up the narrative, it will help them build  a visual picture in their head and process their emotions.

Adjustment to change can take a good few weeks or months.  Let your children know this is totally normal and to be expected.   Wishing you a smooth transition back into the office (if you are going) and a smooth transition for your children back to school.

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