First Day back to School

An Emotional Rollercoaster Ride
Pupils are returning to school. Credit: Press Association

The last days of summer are approaching fast. Those warm summer nights have become shorter and cooler again. Those final moments trying to prolong and to keep summer alive for as long as possible. To soak in all those summer feelings, never wanting to finish. The holiday happiness many of us were experiencing for the first time after the pandemic restrictions were lifted in most countries around the world.

Summer holidays are coming to an end. In most countries in Europe school returns between the second week of August and the first week of September. This week for over 10.5 million of children across the United Kingdom, the majority of pupils will return on Monday the 5th of September to school. Lots of excitement in the children’s eyes. A mixture of feelings, from enthusiasm to some fearful thoughts. Varying from simply happiness, to return-to-school-anxiety. All those and many more sentiments can be noticed in a pupils’ facial expressions. From those children that already had a few returns to school after their long six-week summer holidays, to those tiny human beings who will walk their very first time through the school gate of their new school.

For everyone, regardless of their stage of their academic journey, it is leading to a new year and a new phase of their life. Leaving summer behind and trying to embrace what will be a new year of learning. New beginnings. New chances.

But, how to support the children to face and ease those transition from summer holidays back into school? The main support could be given by a positive approach. Frequent speaking about school in a positive sense. Trying to speak in an enthusiastic way about their positive memories from their past academic year, reviving the topics and experiences they liked the most. Everything begins within us. The more positive energy we give to a certain thing, the easier it will get.

It can be also helpful to involve the child in helping to purchase all their belongings, from school uniform to their pencils. To make it become like a yearly ritual, the moment of going to choose their school shoes with perhaps a fun outing for a new haircut. Organizing to meet up with their school friends who might not have seen each other during the summer could help facilitate their feelings of anxiety.

Once school has started, especially during the first weeks, to keep their after school simple, trying to spend a lot of time and attention with the children is vital. Allowing the children to express themselves, asking them how their day was, with an undivided attention. Perhaps, if time and circumstances allow, to reward the child with a small special family activity to do on the weekend.

On the other hand, for millions of working parents those long summer holidays can be a struggle. Having to juggle their work commitment with childcare is not an easy task. Finding ways to keep their children entertained and in line with their family arrangements can become increasingly difficult the more the weeks pass. This can also have a financial burden on family, especially during these times with the cost of living increasing. For those families who rely on free school meals at school, this has an additional impact as for six weeks children will not receive their usual warm meals at school. For those families six weeks of school break might have seem endless and maybe also an additional financial drain.

However, how are the parents feeling regarding the return to school? A sense of proudness to see them growing up a year older. Yet, I dare to say, that many might feel a little emotional in seeing them depart. Perhaps, the summertime spent together has brought a nice routine into their family life, a slower pace into their everyday life. Perhaps, seeing their beloved ones wearing for the first time their oversized school rucksack on that Monday morning makes them look fragile and vulnerable.

Those feelings experienced by parents might be most common in first-time parents or for those having children that are just starting their first year at school. Are those feelings of anxiety parents are experiencing really school-related or could it possibly be that they themselves are not ready for that big milestone called school?

The first day of school is at least as a big challenge for parents as it is for children. Letting go is one of the toughest learning challenges a parent must face. To let our children go might start as early as from their moment upon entering this world. It is a life-long learning process from both perspectives, for the parent as much as it is for the child. Overcoming those feelings of separation anxiety for a parent is not an easy task.

As a parent, we can simply be there, trust and embrace our children and walk with them, be at their side to help them through the chapters of their lives. Preparing them gently for what life might well bring them. But as hard as it is, it’s our children’s path they will have to pursue alone. Hence, letting go of a child for a parent might be difficult. This tiny creature that we wanted so fiercely protect and shield from the world is now off to school. What might be overwhelming for a parent’s soul, might be the beginning of an exciting new adventure for that child. One can only hope so.

Children In the Classroom. Credit: Pexels

Therefore, as expressed before, preparing the child gently for school in advance will reduce separation anxiety and enhance the school readiness. Having a positive mindset will also help the child to confidently step into their academic journey. Finding a way to mark this milestone might be an important part.

There is a most wonderful inspiring quote by Dr. Maria Montessori which has inspired parents around the world: "The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence."

Therefore, in other words, we should give roots to our children so they will always know where their family home is. We should allow them to have wings to fly away and practice what they have learnt.

Whatever a parent is feeling will be on the first day of this autumn term – good luck to everyone! Here is the wish to a new adventurous school journey.

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