The start of a new school year can be approached much like the start of a marathon: you can turn up, run, and hope for the best without much thought, but parents and children are likely to have a much better time if you’re prepared from the get-go.
Of course, getting ready for the term will always include a certain amount of organisation such as buying uniforms and packing bags in advance, planning lunches, having your schedule ready, and knowing whether it’s a Dress Up Day or not (don’t forget!).
But while all these things are important, and forethought and a structured routine can reduce stress and anxiety, there are other areas you can focus on that will have a lasting impact beyond the first day.
The following suggestions are all helpful in the lead up, so that everyone feels energised and excited about what lies ahead. As someone who stepped into the new role as AIS School Principal in January 2022, read on for my tips on making it work.
School holidays are a wonderful time for families to reconnect. In my household with my children Alex, 20, and Daisy, 16, this usually means that normal sleep schedules go out the window, and evenings fall into a pattern of staying up late playing games or chatting. Sleeping tends to happen more the next day!
Having the right amount of sleep at different stages of a child’s life has a huge impact on their academic performance, health and social interactions. At least a week before the first day of school, start to get your children back into their school sleep pattern and ensure they’re getting enough rest to enable them to make the most of school and life.
As children and teenagers grow and develop, it’s normal for them to feel hungrier and to want to eat more. A balanced diet provides extra energy and nutrients to support this. Eating three regular meals a day with snacks in between will help a teenager to meet their nutritional needs; skipping meals means they’ll miss out on essential vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates, which can leave them feeling sluggish and lacking in concentration. It’s more important than ever that as parents and guardians we act as positive food role models by making healthy choices and enjoying balanced meals as a family.
Kids really are like sponges, absorbing the energy of those around them. If you’re freaking out over new schedules and hand sanitiser, one of the most helpful things you can do is exude calm and cool, particularly during the lead up to term time. Complete a dry run to the school gate to mitigate any hiccups in advance, but double it up as a fun morning out. Doing so will also determine what time you need to prep breakfast and when you have to leave the house once reality kicks in. Make everyone put on their school uniform for the exercise too – no one wants to deal with a Mariah Carey-style strop on the actual first day.
Our children have many people speaking to them – parents, siblings, friends, and also strangers on social media. However, the voice they hear the most is their own. The difference that positive self-talk and negative self-talk can have on a child’s wellbeing, both socially and academically, should not be underestimated. The use and practise of positive self-talk with your child is essential for easing the anxiety of starting a new school year. Create some affirmations they can use on a regular basis such as, ‘I can do hard things’ or ‘I can take risks’ or ‘I like a challenge’. Stick up visible post-it notes around your home and in your kids’ bedrooms if this feels awkward to say out loud. The more you practise it, the more it will become embedded in your daily life, and this will become the voice your children will be using with themselves.
There is increasing evidence that being grateful has a positive effect on our wellbeing. Before school starts there’s an opportunity to have this conversation with your children. Reframe the chat from what they’re excited or nervous about, to what they’re feeling grateful for in the coming school year. Have some of your own starting points ready such as ‘I’m grateful to catch up with people I’ve not seen for ages’ or ‘I’m grateful to be able to connect with the families of new children in your class’. Other areas you could be feeling grateful for are new opportunities and experiences that being at school brings.
Australian International School (AIS) is located at 1 Lorong Chuan, 556 818.
Tel: 6517 0247 (admissions), ais.com.sg