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Confidence for Life! Back to School

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Family engagement will give students the home support they need to flourish in the new school year.
James Tonkinson, Advancement Manager at Kellett School, reports.

All times of transition, at any age and whatever form they take, can render us fragile, so it’s important that we look after ourselves and each other in these periods of change.

Happily, these are also times that offer us the most potential for growth.
The summer holidays mean many of us will be returning to Hong Kong after spending time in countries that are functioning with a level of pre-pandemic normalcy.

Some students will be returning from extended periods in different countries, perhaps even having been enrolled in different schools. Our children will have the usual back to school nerves as they adjust to new classes, new teachers, new timetables and so on, and we also have to factor in friends who have moved away, a return to mask wearing after a mask-free
holiday, not to mention pandemic fatigue. There are plenty of reasons to feel nervous and apprehensive at the beginning of the school year.

With all of this in mind, here are some tips for a smooth back-to-school transition.

A week or so before school starts, get your children used to the bedtime routine and ensure they are getting enough sleep. We all thrive on certainty, rituals and routines. Trying to embed good sleep patterns, healthy meal times and time for rest, relaxation and play helps us feel our best. Try to keep screens out of bedrooms to help with this.

Encourage your child to get back in touch with their old friends or if they’re new to the school, reach out to other students through the class parents. Connecting socially helps children to feel like they’re not alone and helps to validate feelings.

Encourage your child to plan get-togethers with friends and to engage in
hobbies or activities they really enjoy. For those returning from abroad, booking a meal in a favourite restaurant or planning a beach trip, camping trip or any previously enjoyed favourite Hong Kong activity can be a good way to get kids excited to be back in the city again.

Make sure you talk to your child about the return to school, listen, validate and provide reassurance. Sometimes our children may worry about things that seem insignificant to us. Listen with curiosity and compassion, and try not to jump in to solve problems straight away. Remind them to be kind to themselves by saying, “this is difficult, give yourself time to adjust, we can do it together” and look for the positives.

Parents may expect some regression in younger children such as trouble sleeping, dressing themselves and going to the toilet at the beginning of the school year. These skills may be tested in the first few weeks.

Most kids will get comfortable and bounce back to where they started. For all ages, it’s normal to have meltdowns in a safe space in the first few weeks of term. If these changes continue more than a few weeks, or if your child is persistently tearful, talk to the teachers to see how they are at school.

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Before term star ts, think about the level of support your child may need. Some students may already have a plan in place that has been drawn up with the help of teachers, counsellors and other staff.

Ask the school how the support will continue and which staff will be there to help review the plan. Draw up a list of resources that may be of help to your child.

Schools are acutely aware of the importance of supporting children’s wellbeing at these important times. Contact your school’s counselling team to get support early on, or reach out to one of the many excellent counsellors or psychologists in Hong Kong.

Finally, what about children refusing to go to school? The first thing is to make sure we as parents manage our own level of anxiety. Children look to us to know the level of feeling they should be having. Our job is not to remove every problem from our children’s lives so that it is completely anxiety-free, but to help our children develop the skills to manage their own anxiety.

When it’s time for school, parents have to ensure the boundary is clear: School is non-negotiable. Avoidance exacerbates anxiety. At the same time,
saying, “you shouldn’t feel nervous,” or “there’s no need to feel afraid,” can belittle how they are feeling. If your child shares a feeling, try not to close it down but discuss it openly. Rather than using direct questions, try instead, “I remember when I was in P2, I felt …” “I was wondering whether…” “I noticed that…” Stay receptive, curious and open to what your child is saying.

I’m sure that the experiences of the past couple of years, in particular the adaptability, resilience and independence children have had to develop, will
stand them in good stead for the year ahead.

Best wishes to all students for the academic year ahead and here’s hoping it’s home-learning-free.

Kellett School is a co-ed, through-train, British international school with campuses on Hong Kong Island (4 to 11 years) and Kowloon Bay (4 to 18 years).

If you would like to find out more about Kellett’s admissions process, contact the admissions team at [email protected], call 3120 0700 or visit www.kellettschool.com.

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