Back to school can cause a lot of stress for children. Neuropsychologist Vivian Akerib offers us ways to help them cope with certain difficult situations.
My child is starting school or will attend a new one. How can I help her manage the situation? Visiting the school with him, walking around, and getting to know the place should reduce our child’s apprehension by making him a little more familiar with his new environment. In addition, having him participate in the purchase of his school equipment (school bag, lunch box, etc.) will help him see the start of the new school year as something exciting and pleasant. In addition, these objects, which have somewhat the same role as transitional objects, such as a security blanket, will have a reassuring effect.
My child has no friends who attend his school. Can we reassure him? We can ask our future teacher if he can put us in contact with other parents whose children will attend the same school. Suggesting that these parents meet, for example in a park where the children can get to know each other, is a good way to help our youngsters. Reminding our child of how lovable he is, reassuring him that he is capable of making new friends, and encouraging him to reach out to others will also surely boost his self-confidence.
What to do to lighten the school-related routine? Agreeing the day before on the clothes that our child will wear and preparing lunches in advance will save us a little time. Tasks in which our youngsters can of course participate. In addition, establishing a very precise schedule will have the effect of securing our child and thus reducing his stress a little. For example 7 a.m., we get up; at 7:15 a.m., we have lunch; at 7:40 am, we get dressed, etc. Obviously, the same principle applies when returning from school. The established schedule is prominently displayed. Our child will know exactly what to do at any given time, and the routine will become natural over time.
Back to file Back to school on the right foot
He is afraid of not liking his teacher. What to do? Everyone is entitled to a chance, we can tell him. Our child must first get to know his teacher before forming an opinion. What are its attributes? His qualities? Each week, our child is asked to find at least one positive point about his teacher. This will prevent him from focusing on what he may like less.
Should we establish a new bedtime routine? Absolutely. Particularly if we tended to be a little lax on this plan during the summer. Ideally, we introduce a new routine two weeks before the start of the school year, gradually. For example, if our child goes to bed at 9 p.m., we advance his sleep by half an hour, then by an hour, by an hour and a half if necessary. Until the second year, it is important that a child has at least 11-12 hours of sleep per night. Similarly, teens need just as many hours of sleep.
How do distinguish normal stress from anxiety? It is completely normal for our child to experience some stress during the start of the school year. But if the latter affects the functioning of our child, he has insomnia, complains of recurring stomach aches, and loses his appetite, we must start to worry. What to do? We discuss with him what causes this anxiety, and, as often as necessary. Patience will therefore be essential. We also focus on problem-solving: we define a few problematic situations for him, then we offer him different solutions. We must also remind him of all the resources available to him at school (psychologist, administration, social worker, nurse, etc.). If the situation does not seem to improve or worsen, we do not hesitate to consult a specialist.