Starting school is one of the most significant milestones in a young child’s life. While this change can be exciting and enjoyable, many children can start to feel nervous as their first day approaches. We share some of the most common starting school worries and suggest some simple ways to make your child feel at ease.
Children can suffer a whole host of starting school worries, including:
Will I make friends?
Will my teacher like me?
What if I don’t like the school dinners?
What if I can’t find the toilet?
What happens if I feel sick?
Will my teacher be cross if the work is too hard for me?
What if someone is mean to me?
How to deal with it:
- Children don’t always find it easy to express their concerns, so if you think they might be worried about something, take a quiet moment to tell them about a time when you once started something new. Explain that it is normal to feel nervous but, most importantly, it is always possible to overcome those fears.
- Books about starting school are also a great way to encourage your child to discuss their feelings. Try Come to School Too, Blue Kangaroo! by Emma Chichester Clark.
- If your child asks a question about the school day that you don’t know the answer to, contact their school and find out. Little worries can sometimes turn into big ones, but many concerns can be addressed by making sure they know what will happen at school and where they should go if they need anything.
- Focus on the positives and help them to find solutions to their fears rather than just telling them everything will be fine. Helping them tackle their problems head-on will boost their confidence and make them more capable of coping with new difficulties in the future.
It’s completely normal for a young child to feel upset when they are left in an unfamiliar place. Although it can be hard to say goodbye to your child when they are feeling anxious, with patience, empathy and a few coping strategies, separation anxiety will gradually fade over time.
How to deal with it:
- Before you arrive at the school, talk to your child about what will happen during the dropping-off process. Tell them when you will say goodbye in the morning and what will happen when you pick them up in the afternoon.
- Ask the class teacher for help if you think your child will cry when it is time for you to go. They are well-practiced at finding fun distractions for unsettled children.
- Keep your goodbyes as short as possible, but don’t be tempted to sneak away. A disappearing parent is far more upsetting than one who has offered a final word of reassurance
- Even though it may be an emotional time for you, try to look happy in front of your child. If you look worried or upset, your child may start to feel the same way.
- If tears appear beyond the first few mornings, a reward chart may help your child to focus on something positive at drop-off time. Give them a sticker for each day they manage to leave you without too much distress, and perhaps offer a small reward once they have collected a certain number – this could be anything from a new toy to a fun home baking session.
For some children, times of stress can trigger a period of bedwetting. There is some evidence to suggest that bedwetting runs in families, so if you or your partner wet the bed as a child, your little one may do the same.
Frustrating as this phase can be, remember that your child has little control over what happens when they are asleep. They need your love and reassurance in order to overcome this hurdle.
How to deal with it:
- Talk to your child. If the stress of starting school is causing them to wet the bed, they will need to resolve their worries before the issue will stop. Use the suggestions above for dealing with general concerns to encourage your child to open up and share their feelings.
- Speak to your child’s teacher so they can keep an eye on your child at school and ensure they are not being bullied or excluded.
- Be aware of any disruptions at home that may have brought on the bedwetting. Family disputes, a new baby or moving home could all be responsible for bedwetting incidents.
- Check that nothing is preventing your child from getting up when they need to go to the toilet at night, such as a fear of the dark. If there is, leave the bathroom light on, use a night light or put a torch by your child’s bed.
- Use a waterproof cover for their mattress and duvet until the problem is under control to make clean-ups easier. You can also invest in some absorbent pants or bed mats aimed at older children.
- Caffeine in tea, chocolate and cola drinks can make bedwetting worse. Try to limit your child’s caffeine intake, especially in the hours before going to bed.
- In some cases, an underlying medical condition may be the cause of bedwetting if they have already been dry at night for a significant period (at least six months). In this instance, bed wetting will usually be accompanied by daytime wetting. Your child’s GP will be able to check for any problems.