I'm a child expert – the 10 step tick list to getting your child ready to go back to school after 6 weeks of fun | The Sun

PICTURE this – your alarm has woken you abruptly from your sleep and you’re running around trying to get the kids up, dressed and ready to leave the house in record timing. 

That’s right, it’s your child’s first day back at school after the summer holidays and all hell has broken loose at home. 

If you want to avoid that scenario at all costs, Children’s Emotional Wellbeing’ Expert Jenna Farrely, from the website MOTHER FIT, is on hand for support. 

Here, Jenna guides us through her ultimate checklist of how to make the first day back at school smooth sailing after six weeks of summer fun – and why the Mission Impossible soundtrack will be your secret saviour.

Bedtimes and mornings

“Bring bedtime 10-15 mins earlier every night for the last week of summer.. this will help to get them back to a reasonable bedtime (that usually goes out of the window in summer!)

“And whilst doing this, also wake them up 10-15 mins earlier in the mornings. 

“Some like to bite the bullet and just set an early alarm for the first day of school but it can be a huge shock to the system and risks the children being over tired and groggy on the first morning back. This isn’t useful when emotions may already be quite high.

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Get their brains going

“The summer brain fog is real. Children have more energy through the holidays because they’re not having to concentrate and are taking in much less information day to day. 

“When starting back at school they will suddenly be flooded with writing, reading and problem solving, so rather than having that instant shock upon their return – plan some fun activities that involve these things. 

“There are so many fun maths games out there, whiteboards and markers always go down so well and things such as baking, word searches, logical board games and scavenger hunts don’t feel like work but involve using more brain power. 

“They’ll be having so much fun, that they won’t even notice you’re warming them up for school!"

They’ll be having so much fun, that they won’t even notice you’re warming them up for school

Have open conversations

“Anxiety can often be masked with anger, frustration and defiance. Recognising that your child isn’t being ‘difficult’ but is having a difficult time, is going to be key.

“Even the most confident of children can have ‘back to school nerves’ which can be so well hidden under more obvious emotions. 

“If you notice a change in your child’s behaviour, start asking some questions, a good place to do this is in the car so they aren’t necessarily face to face with you (this can help children to open up). 

“If your child admits they are nervous, avoid language such as ‘You’ll be fine’, ‘There’s nothing to worry about’ or ‘Don’t be silly, school is just school’.” 

“On the surface, these seem like reassuring comments, however it is confusing for your child’s emotional centres in their brain. 

“When we respond with comments such as ‘I used to get really nervous for school too’, or ‘I can see why you’d feel that way’, or ‘If you still feel worried when you go in, remember to take 5 long deep breaths until you feel calm.’ 

“These responses offer your child validation and someone to relate to. This calms their emotional responses and helps them to build vital emotional regulation skills.”

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1-2-1 time with each child 

“Ideally every night for 30 mins (less time/or every other day if that’s all the time you have). 

“Presence fills up their emotional needs bucket right to the very top- this means they are less likely to fight against the new routine, and less likely to struggle emotionally. 

“This is hugely important on the last night before school. If possible, spend time in the morning doing something calm and present too -colouring or reading, puzzles etc.”

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“We all know what it feels like to be running around like a headless chicken, shouting at each child to brush teeth, and put their socks and shoes on. 

“This generally comes from not having enough time in the mornings – with you prepping

the earlier bedtimes and earlier wake up times, you should find that you have more time to get everything sorted. 

“But in order to be super prepared; pack the lunches the night before, get them to get their uniform out ready, and pop their bags and shoes by the door. 

“To encourage a little fun, you can play some mission impossible music when you have a few minutes left until you leave.

“Children are highly motivated by fun so things like this really help to get them out the door.”

You can play some mission impossible music when you have a few minutes left until you leave

Make a ‘Calm Zone’

“Going back to school or starting school can be an overwhelming experience for many children. Get them to help you set up a ‘calm zone’ in their bedroom. 

“This could be under a high sleeper, in a teepee tent, or just in a corner of their room. 

“Fill it with blankets, cushions, fidgets, mindfulness activities, nice lights and anything else you think will help them to feel calm. 

“Tell them that this is their special place to go and unwind when things feel too much; when they’re angry or sad, or feeling worried. 

“By doing this you are encouraging open communication and safety when it comes to their emotional well-being.”

Get them to help you set up a ‘calm zone’ in their bedroom

Encourage independence

“Buy an easily accessible clothes rail, hang all their uniform on it and get them to pick their clothes from it daily. 

“This encourages independence (don’t force them to do it!) but supporting this can help give them a boost and a feeling of accomplishment. 

“The best way to encourage independence is by starting little by little- brushing teeth for 5 seconds, then 10, then 20 and so on, brushing hair for 5 seconds, then 10 seconds, then 20 and so on- getting them to do one button, or one sock and so on. 

“The more supportive we are in their development, the more independent they will become.” 

Visual boards 

“Our brains love repetition – it provides us with safety; ‘I can depend on what’s going to happen next so I feel safe’ 

“Therefore, change can impact us all greatly, our brains and bodies need to settle into the new routine again and for children, this could look like mood swings and tears. 

“Visual routine boards are a great way to show children what’s happening so using something like this for the mornings and for bedtimes can be really useful whilst transitioning into the new norm.”

Give yourself the chance to settle too

Make things easy for yourself

“Lunchbox dinners for the first week, working from home, not booking in big meetings those first few days- whatever it may be, give yourself the easiest options possible whilst you’re all adjusting to the new norm.

“Being strict on yourself and the children in that first week isn’t going to be good for anyone’s stress levels.”

Compassion and self-compassion 

Compassion and self-compassion 

“There may be extra tears and tiredness while things settle back in, and this doesn’t mean you or your children have done anything wrong. 

“Before correcting any behaviour, ask yourself this; ‘Is this because they’re

really tired?’, ‘Is this because their brains are overwhelmed?’, ‘Is this because their brains are struggling with the change?’, ‘Are they being difficult or are they having a difficult time?’

“When we have this level of awareness, we can switch from being stressed to a calmer state – we can then connect before we correct. 

“Your child is more than likely going to need a hug rather than a punishment, and your presence is going to be needed more than ever. 

“Eye contact, a reassuring touch and getting down to their level really goes a long way. And if you are feeling overwhelmed, worried or upset, give yourself the chance to settle too. 

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“This is hard on all of you so what can you do to incorporate some self-care into your days or evenings? Are you speaking to yourself negatively? Can you speak to a friend? 

“There are so many ways we can show ourselves compassion, it’s vital for our wellbeing.” 

For more parenting tips, visit www.motherfit.co.uk or follow @wearemotherfit

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