Don’t oversell school

I am no doctor but I am predicting an epidemic of tummy aches in the first week of February. I know I always got one on the first day of school after the holidays. School is probably a lot nicer now than it was then but even so, starting back at school is a stressful thing for many kids, especially if it is a new school. I think we can forgive them a few nerves. Here are some tips.

Sympathise. Sympathising does not mean agreement. Maybe you don’t think their fears have substance, but let them know you see they are upset, that you take it seriously and that you care. By the way, contradiction like, “Of course you won’t be bullied – everyone is going to be very nice to you. You’re just being silly – you’ll make lots of friends! And I am sure the teachers are just lovely.” is not reassurance  or likely to change their mind. Let them get it out, give them a hug and then help them know that feeling scared is normal. Give your opinion without rubbishing theirs – “I certainly hope that won’t happen, and you know what? I really don’t think it will. My friends’ kids go to this school and they say it’s just fine”.

Facts flush away fears. Part of what might be really scaring your child is not what they know but what they don’t know. If they’re starting at a new school, go through the school’s website with them. Help them learn some staff names, what a typical day’s timetable looks like, and what the rules are. If you can, walk around the school grounds before the term starts and rehearse things that might be new, like drop-offs, pick-ups and the route from home. All of these are great confidence builders.

There are lots more tips on our website but one final thing – don’t oversell school. They are going to school, not Disneyland. School is seldom as bad as kids say it is, but neither is it as good as some parents make it out to be – “You are just going love school! It’s wonderful!” Perhaps, but a lot of school life involves sitting still, being quiet, and learning, which can be quite hard work. So don’t stray too far from the truth if you want to remain credible.

All the best for the new year, and I wish you well with the tummy aches.

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John Cowan

Writer, speaker and broadcaster, John Cowan shares his insight and opinions about the latest in parenting and family news in New Zealand. Hear John speak on radio stations every week throughout the country and regularly on national TV.  Follow @JohnCowanNZ on Twitter

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