The back to school blues, and how you can deal with them
It’s a rare child who enjoys 100% of their education 100% of the time. Most of us remember that sinking feeling as the summer holidays came to an end, and most of us can sympathise with a child who’s got the back to school blues. Usually, they’re just sad about the end of the free and easy summertime.
Sometimes, however, there’s a more serious issue at the heart of your child’s back to school blues. Some problems, such as bullying or illness, require serious long-term solutions.
Why might a child be struggling with back to school blues?
Academic issues The main purpose of school is to give children an education. If that education isn’t going as well as your child feels it should, things can get very stressful. School is miserable for children who, for whatever reason, are having a hard time with their lessons. Children experiencing academic issues may feel like failures, or be frustrated, or bored, or anxious, or stressed, or all of these things.
Pressure Modern schools are highly pressured environments. There’s a lot of onus on children to study hard and do well in their exams. This kind of pressure is bound to cause anxiety in even the most laid-back student.
Introversion Many more introverted children dread school not for its academic pressures, but for its intensely social nature. Introverts who crave solitude are quickly drained by the constant presence of others which the school environment enforces. For those who function better in less crowded, less interactional environments, the prospect of returning to school can be daunting.
Bullying If your child is being bullied or feels isolated from their peers, school can become a place of torment. Anyone dreads returning to an environment in which they are picked on by others.
Illness Some illnesses are more obvious than others. Chronic physical or mental illness can make school very difficult for the child affected.
Helping your child with general back to school blues
Get to the bottom of their reluctance to return to school Talk to them. Try and establish whether their concerns about school are simple end-of-summer ennui, or related to something more serious. There are things that can be done about academic issues, bullying, illness etc, but you need to know what’s going on before you can take the next steps.
Encourage them to think of it as a fresh start Anything new is daunting, including a new school year. Reframing the new term as a fresh start could help to improve their mindset.
Build positive excitement with a stationary shop You can reinforce the ‘fresh start’ idea with a shop for new stationary and/or uniform. Nothing builds excitement for a new start like a whole load of new stuff.
Encourage them to anticipate exciting events Are there any field trips coming up, or exciting school events? Encourage your child to focus on these rather than on the aspects of school they’re less fond of.
Give them something to look forward to It can feel like a long, hard slog towards the next break. Plan something to look forward to - a holiday, a day out, even something as simple as a favourite meal - to help them power through the school days.
Have a back to school play date For many kids, one of the silver linings of going back to school is seeing all their school friends again. You can capitalise on this by having a back-to-school playdate, during which your child and their friends can catch up on what they’ve done over the summer and make plans for the upcoming school year.
Helping your child through more serious back to school issues
Some issues need a bit more than new stationary and a playdate. Things like bullying, ill health, and academic troubles are tougher to fix than general end-of-holiday malaise, but they’re not impossible. Here are some things which may help a child who’s struggling with more serious school-related issues:
Consider the social context In cases of bullying or other issues to do with your child’s peers, it’s helpful to get as full an understanding as you can of the social context before deciding what to do. Social isolation and vulnerability are things which are intrinsic to the closed society of the schoolchildren themselves. What this means in effect is that adults can do little to change the social status of an isolated and/or bullied child. While the school may (to some degree) be able to stop the bullying, they are unlikely to be able to treat the vulnerability and low self-esteem that low social-status gives the victims of bullying. Children like this may need extra-curricular help in boosting their self-esteem, learning social coping methods, overcoming the trauma of being bullied and so on.
Talk to the school Your child’s school should do their best to sort out any issues your child is having. This could involve moving them out of classes in which they are bullied, getting them academic support, modifying teaching styles around them, or otherwise accommodating their needs. If the school is unable to provide the solution your child needs, it may be worth seeking an educational alternative.
Seek professional help If your child is really suffering, it’s very important that you seek professional help as soon as possible. Make an appointment with your GP as first port of call for anything you suspect may be illness-related. If you are concerned that your child has a condition like ASD or ADHD which may be making school difficult for them, your GP will be able to refer you to agencies who can help.
Find a counsellor Troubles at school can leave lasting marks on a child’s psyche. However, if they get help from an accredited professional, they’ll grow up equipped with the psychological resources they need to overcome this early setback. An accredited counsellor will provide your child with a safe, non-judgemental space in which to process their experiences and come to terms with the effects. For more on how counselling can help your child, and how to find the right counsellor, take a look at our counsellor directory.
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