Change may be good, but it’s not necessarily easy.
Switching from the excitement of Christmas and the laid-back fun in the sun of summer to rules, homework and routines can be a big jump for parents and children alike.
It’s normal for a child to have a little flutter of anxiety about going back to school. After all, they’ve been getting themselves ready for a lot of newness: a teacher, classmates, tasks and challenges.
A parent’s attitude has a strong influence on how children view the beginning of school. Children pick up on their parent’s feelings, react to them and often magnify them. You have to have faith that they’ll be able to get through changes, even if it’s hard. It’s a powerful message to give to kids. We don’t want to dismiss their feelings, but we do want to normalise them and say ‘everyone feels a little nervous going into the classroom but I really think you’re going to be fine.”
Emphasise to your children that anxiety doesn’t have to be a stop signal. It’s just our body getting us pumped so we’re ready to handle a new or challenging situation. This is known as the fight/flight response which can be used to advantage. It’s only when this becomes unbalanced that it can imbalance the body as a whole, especially a child’s nervous system.
Establishing daily routines at home at the start of the school year (or beforehand) can help children adjust. Doing this directly benefits their work in the classroom, where their day is full of routines. Routines need to be modeled to kids no matter the age. They need to be shown what to do, not told what to do and parent’s need to let their kids know their expectations. It’s only fair.
Try creating a checklist or flowchart together to help children get organised and stay on schedule. It can help ease anxiety without rushing to get out the door. For the afternoon, consider scheduling a routine for homework, snacks and extracurricular activities.
Students may have trouble sleeping at the start of the school year, but that’s nothing to worry about. As the school year gets closer it is a good idea to slowly move bedtime earlier. Invariably, bedtimes during the holidays are later than usual and sleeping in, the norm. This can cause issues if not pulled back into line.
At night, when setting bedtimes, keep in mind that children between the ages of 5 and 12 need ten to eleven hours of sleep. Setting an early bedtime at the beginning of the school year may not work as well for older children who can handle being up later. Expect them to be exhausted the first week when they come home from school and plan for low-key afternoons to give them a chance to decompress.
A good backpack
As chiropractors, we are constantly amazed at the type and weight of many children’s school bags. A growing spine needs all the support it can get. From kindergarten to year 12, Australian children spend over 2500 days carting their bags to and from school. This is why the Chiropractor’s Association of Australia (CAA) joined forces with Spartan
and Macquarie University NSW to research and develop the Chiropak.
This bag is proven to reduce the incidence and severity of neck and back pain associated durable, functional and ergonomically designed to provide back support. Ideally a backpack should be no more than 10% of a student’s body weight when packed. However, there are usually demands on students to carry heavier loads. If worn correctly, the Chiropak is proven to reduce the incidence and severity of neck and back pain associated with the carriage of such loads.
Chiropractors understand that consumers value products based on good orthopaedic and ergonomic design principles. As the peak body representing chiropractors, the CAA takes its role of promoting the importance of spinal care, especially with a growing spine, very seriously. The CAA has worked hard with Spartan in order to be able to recommend a school backpack that complies with the philosophy of excellence, durability and value for money- helping the children of Australia to maintain a healthy spine, and therefore a healthier life.
Feel free to bring your child in for a general chiropractic checkup and and assessment of their backpack. Please speak with Melanie or Amanda to book this special appointment. If you are at all interested in purchasing a Chiropak, please speak with Dr. Helen Alevaki or Dr. Troy Miles to recommend an appropriate size.
Establish fun traditions
Because attitude matters, if you’re excited for school to start, your children will follow your lead. Having an annual ritual can help ring in the new year and can be a treasured tradition for years to come. For instance, every year the night before the first day of school, a family I know sit around the backyard fire pit, roasts marshmallows and talks about their ‘joys and concerns’ for the upcoming year.
Spending time just hanging out with your children before the start of the school year helps with transition. A parent’s simple presence is comforting and soothing to children and gives them the opportunity to talk if they want to.
Once school starts, of course parents want to hear all about it, but it’s important to follow your child’s lead. Some children are chatty and will discuss every detail. Others will feel overwhelmed with too many questions. They may need to relax first and talk later or they may give you bits and pieces of their day. Either way, it’s fine. One of the most precious gifts we can give our children is our confidence that they will find their way.