Overcoming June jitters

Overcoming June jitters

Overcoming June jitters

A bit of planning and strategy can lessen the agony of going back to school, help lighten the mood and ensure that the enthusiasm and positivity of the holidays are carried into the new academic year, assures Shruthi Rao

The two carefree months of summer holidays have flown past and the beginning of the next academic year is just around the corner. It is an exciting time, but for many children, it is also an unsettling period.

Not only does it signal the end of the fun and frolic of the vacation, but it also brings with it the spectre of early mornings, inflexible schedules and mountains of homework. 

This makes children, especially young ones, go through feelings ranging from mild apprehension to extreme anxiety. But this transition, from fun-packed, boisterous holidays to the tedium of school, needn't be so painful.

No matter how tough it seems in the beginning, this period of adjustment is just a matter of a few days, and children usually settle in, comfortably, in no time. A bit of planning and strategy can lessen the agony of going back to school, help lighten the mood and ensure that the enthusiasm and positivity of the holidays are carried into school days. 

Build it up

Back-to-school activities - like buying new uniforms, bags, stationery and other school essentials, wrapping school books in brown paper, choosing and pasting labels on books - can help put the child into ‘the school mode’ during the last week of vacations.

Casual conversations about interesting things to expect in the new year will also help instill excitement. Some kids like a countdown - it helps put things in perspective, especially for the younger ones, and helps them get adjusted to the idea of going back to school.

For example, “You'll start basketball at school this year” or “You'll carry a lunchbox to school this year, and have lunch with your friends!”

Prep the child

Schedules go for a toss during summer holidays. Mealtimes and bedtimes are all over the place, and tuning the child's body clock to school timings is essential if the child has to start school in a good mood.

S/he has to be well-rested and well-fed. Ideally, a week before school starts, start tweaking your child's schedule gradually to bring it back to school timings. Wake up time and mealtimes, especially breakfast, need to be set right before school actually begins.

If you have been on a vacation, come back at least a week before the first day of school, so that you'll have time to ease into the routine.

Gear yourself up

Get yourself back on track, too. It will help if you rise early the first couple of days of school, and get all the chores done, and get yourself ready before the child wakes up. That'll give you the time, mindspace and equanimity to tackle the child's emotional outbursts and handle setbacks, if any.

But be prepared for some turmoil in the first week. Sachin Joshi, an IT professional, says that in case his five-year-old creates too much fuss, he and his wife don't stress too much, and are prepared to let their kid miss school a couple of days in the first week. “Eventually, kids do relax and settle in,” he reckons.

Talk it out

Most kids, especially younger ones, tend to experience some kind of apprehension or anxiety in going back to school. Empathise with them, and let them know that it is natural to feel anxious.

Share your own experiences, if any, about anxiety and how you tackle it. Depending on the child, you'll need to work out ways of helping him/her deal with the emotion. My seven-year-old, who is eager to go back to school, is nevertheless apprehensive about the unknowns as school-reopening time approaches. “Who will my class teacher be?”

“Will my classroom still be on the first floor?” Talking about these unknowns and discussing the "what-ifs" makes her feel better. 

Dr Preethy Dinakar's daughter experiences agonising anxiety accompanied by stomach ache and loss of appetite, at the thought of going back to school. Preethy talks to her child about the nice things she can look forward to - meeting her friends again, playing in the school playground, the activities and subjects she enjoys - and this makes the child feel better, she shares.

Let take charge

Children feel overwhelmed at the thought of going back to school, and it helps them regain a semblance of control if you let them take charge of some of their own decisions. Dr Tanu Shree Singh, a lecturer in psychology, suggests encouraging children to plan their own lunches, and make their own schedules for the coming school week.

She also suggests giving them age-appropriate incentives (not necessarily material ones!) for doing their work themselves, or for not whining, or whatever the problem area is in your house.

Continue the fun

Just because school has started, it doesn't mean you have to bring to an end all the liveliness of the holidays. See what your child enjoyed most during the holidays and make sure that you fit it in into his/her school week schedule.

For instance, if your child started a project - an art or construction task - during the holidays, you needn't struggle to finish it before school begins. You could continue it into school days, so that the child has something to look forward to. Or if you and your child enjoyed doing something together - going for walks, playing or reading together - there is no reason why you shouldn't set aside a little time for it during a weekday. 

Watch your words

Much of your kids’ attitude is influenced by how you look at things. Children take many of their cues from parents. Avoid making comments like “Oh, summer's at an end. All the fun is over. Back to your books now”.

These comments not only take the wind out of the child's sails, but also imply that books and school are boring. Speak enthusiastically about going back to school. 

Extreme reluctance to go to school, though, can be a sign that something is wrong at school; it is worth scheduling an appointment with the teachers, so that you can work out the kinks before school begins.