SEPTEMBER can be a challenging time for families, as children of all ages start at new schools, with some of them setting foot in a school for the very first time and parents can naturally become concerned.
Amy Jackson, Assistant Head of Pastoral at Barnard Castle School in County Durham, has devised some practical tips on how parents can help their children settle in.
Amy, who leads the pastoral care at the leading independent school which has day and boarding pupils, said: “It’s important to remember that starting a new school is daunting for anyone and it probably isn’t going to be easy from day one. New starters are forming and developing new relationships with teachers and children every day and they’re also getting used to a new environment which comes with its own set of challenges.
“Children will have good and bad days, just like us, and as a parent it’s sometimes tempting to get involved when a child comes home feeling unhappy about something, but children may only tell you half the story. Imagine your daughter or son comes home tearful because they’ve fallen out with a friend, to them it may feel as though the worst has happened but often they will be best friends again by the following afternoon – this is the nature of friendships in your childhood.
“You should always listen to and acknowledge your child’s problems, give them coping methods and help problem solve them, but you can also encourage them to have perspective and empathy towards situations as well as focusing on the positives.
“When you ask them about school at the end of the day, let them choose to tell you about it or not. If they don’t want to tell you, don’t force it, if they want to tell you everything – listen to what they say. But ask, so they know they can talk to you if they want to.
“When a child is overcoming new challenges the most important thing is to help them to focus on the positives, if they concentrate on these they will enjoy and succeed in school. So, here’s some practical tips for the coming weeks.
- When children return from school, ask them three positive things that day.
- Show an interest in their timetable, teachers, classmates and new environment – you’ll find out what they enjoy which will inform your questions and help you understand what they’re going through.
- Acknowledge negative stories but lead conversations on to the positives.
- Get them excited about the next day by finding out what they’re looking forward to.
- If your child is having trouble making friends, let the teachers know. They will have ways of helping. At Barney we have a ‘School Buddy’ system where students in other year groups are partnered with younger children to show them the ropes. Many schools have similar initiatives in place, if not they may consider setting something up.
- Encouraging children to get involved in extra-curricular activities will help them make friends, boost their confidence and broaden their skill set.
- Share with your child all the boring things you’ve done that day and which parts of their school day you would love to be doing instead.
- If your child is struggling with the level of work they are being offered, get in touch with their teacher and let them know your concerns.
- If after three weeks your child is finding it incredibly difficult to say goodbye in the morning and doesn’t seem to be enjoying school get in touch with the teachers to discuss it.
- Remind them always that tomorrow is a new day and to smile.