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The start of a new school year can be a stressful time for children at any age, try these holistic parenting hacks to help ease the transition.

The holidays are over and the new school year has begun. This can be a stressful, even depressing time for children. The transition can test their coping skills in dealing with adjustments such as new teachers and new classrooms, as well as managing hectic school and work schedules. Children need to feel confident and organised as they head back to school, and mentally prepared to knuckle down and get back not just into a daily routine but into study. So, what can you do to help?


Positive physical health and wellbeing contribute to a child’s ability to flourish, thrive and achieve. Equipping children with the skills to cope with potentially stressful situations will enable them to navigate the challenges that might lie ahead. In terms of children’s general wellbeing, there are three key areas to consider. Are your kids sleeping well? Are they getting enough exercise? What is their daily diet? Of course, routine bedtime hours are unappealing to many children, especially teens but a huge part of being prepared and coping is being able to function – without sleep we can’t function at our best.

We all benefit from structure. So from the first day back at school (or better, a week or so before school star ts), get your children into a regular routine. Ensure they go to bed at a fixed time and wake up early. Getting clothes ready the night before – and organising backpacks, binders, lunchboxes and cafeteria money – will help remove the stress from those first early mornings, as will eating a hear ty breakfast. Those precious after-school hours also need to be well-structured, with time set aside for doing homework, socialising, screentime, eating supper, hanging out with family and simply relaxing. There’s a lot to cram in!

As the new term progresses, monitor your children’s routine and discuss areas that could be improved. Strengthen their understanding about how physical wellbeing can set us on the path for success. Your aim is to assist by being suppor tive and realistic: work out a personalised schedule that makes sense for your child. Know too, that it’s important to be flexible with time; allow for the unexpected.


Often, it’s the fear of the unknown – new classmates, teachers, classes – that is most stressful for children heading back to school. The good news is that most children are adept at coping with change and you can help them in that process by providing a setting that fosters resilience, and encourages them to share and express their feelings.

As always, it’s important to talk to your children: ask about their concerns – and really listen to their response. When we feel heard, we immediately feel validated, and once our fears are vocalised, they tend to diminish. Change can be difficult, but also exciting. Let your children know that you are aware of what they’re going through and that you are there to help.

You can begin to educate even very young children about the nature of anxiety – and its benefits. Take some time to explain the “fight or flight” process, so they understand what is happening to their brain and body when they become nervous. Explain that anxiety is meant to protect us but occasionally misfires and becomes a little overprotective – so we need to train our brain to embrace anxious thoughts instead of pushing them away. It is important to encourage children to face their fears instead of falling into the trap of avoidance.

After discussing what anxiety is and how it plays out, it’s important to validate your children’s feelings by empathising. Tell them how nervous you remember feeling at the beginning of a new school term or when you started your first job. Let them know that we all experience these feelings and that it’s totally fine to do so.


When heading back to school, children need to know that they have your support not just emotionally but also on a practical level. So, it’s essential that you get involved! You may be able to arrange to take a tour of their school, so they can show you where their locker and classrooms are located. This will help ease anxiety of the unknown. The more you know about your children’s school, the better equipped you will be to understand the transition they are undergoing.

Be sure to meet members of the school community, or join the school PTA. Attend any meetings the school invites you to. If you hear from the teachers about upcoming activities, you can ensure your child is organised and prepared. Direct any questions or concerns you have to the school, rather than to your child, and arrange for extra tuition in certain subjects if needed.

And a word about academic expectations: try not to set them too high as this will only add to your child’s stress, and never downplay the fact that schoolwork is hard. If your child is having trouble with a cer tain subject, let them know this is totally acceptable, not something to feel bad about. You can’t stress this enough. Emphasis that students are not supposed to understand everything straight away – that’s why there are teachers and study guides and services like tutors. Children need to know that it might take a couple of goes for them to review new content before it sticks, and that’s fine.

Practical support includes involving yourself in your children’s schoolwork and helping when you can, while encouraging them to study with friends. Bear in mind that everyone in your child’s year group is in the same boat, and so are their families. Students all get the same lessons and sit the same exams. Knowing they’re not alone can be a comfort to children, and to bring this home you should encourage them to spend time with fellow students outside school.

Last but not least, take time to listen to your children and discuss their day at school and any issues they may have. While grades and homework are important, it is essential that you express holistic interest in your child. This means asking about their social life, extra-curricular activities and how they like their teachers. Your goal is to help your children implement self-care from a young age.

Going back to school doesn’t have to be scary. There are endless ways to support kids through the transition. It’s impor tant to draw on their strengths, and encourage them to see how incredible they truly are. Start each week on a positive note and also give your child something to look forward to. Plan to spend quality time together at the weekend, or suggest a sleepover with friends.

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