Starting somewhere new can be a huge challenge for a child. Whether moving up to primary or secondary school or even changing school due to a house move there can be a lot of anxiety around such transition. The anxieties are normal and if we imagine starting a new job we get some measure of how our children feel.
Typically if you ask them what feelings they have around going to a new school the negative feelings will be strong even if excitement is included. Trying to balance these negative feelings with a sense of capability and harnessing the positive will really help your child in the lead up to and the start of school
Here is a little exercise I like to use….
As always start with acknowledging and accepting the fears and feelings that are there. This shows the child they have been heard and understood.
A good way to encourage a child to explore their feelings is to have them think what feelings are going with them to school…imagining their school bag as the place where these worries are held.
Typical things a child may be taking with them on their first day of school are anxieties around friendships, wearing a new uniform and what the teacher will be like. Have a look at the anxieties that are filling this school bag …. and perhaps print off the blank one and encourage your child to tell you what is filling theirs (younger children may wish to colour and decorate the bag and use colourful pens to write in their worries.
Now all these feelings are out there and acknowledged, shared.
Looking for solutions
We don’t have to dwell on them, these are real anxieties but really until they are proven otherwise we cannot take them away. What we can do is balance their anxiety by encouraging the child to come up with solutions to their concerns such as learn a few playground games or practice with their new uniform, or perhaps, if they don’t like their uniform to choose a bag they love. This will help them feel empowered and immediately reduce some level of stress.
Sometimes you can’t find solutions and have to draw on past experiences e.g telling them ‘look how you made friends before at that playscheme’ Or when it comes to being nervous about the new teacher and what they are like your child may well just have to wait and see (But you can assure them teachers wouldn’t have chosen their job if they didn’t really like kids!) .
I would complete all solutions in one colour (we used red) …and plan and put them into practice. Problem solving is an important life skill and looking at problems and finding solutions really helps them feel strong and resourceful.
Remember all their lovely talents
Next, encourage them to look at all the strengths and skills they are taking to school with them (we used green for this). We discussed and listed aspects of their personality that will help them at school. Try and get your child to come up with these themselves but it is okay to remind your child if you need to that they are funny and hard-working, enthusiastic, kind and motivated and have all these strengths to help them along the way.
Hopefully by the end of your session the school bag will be full of solutions and skills, personality traits and talents that will help your child at school.
Anxieties are real (and natural) but they need to be kept small and your child needs to remember they are strong and capable and have problem solving skills and many resources. They need to know that they are are SO much more than their worries.
Good luck with transition everyone!