With just a few weeks of the summer holidays left, school is just around the corner which can feel scary. Whether your little one is starting secondary school for the first time ever (eek!) or feeling apprehensive after such a long time away, Place2Be ambassador, Katie Thistleton, is here to help you out. Place2be is one of the three power charities we supported during lockdown and we’re so excited to be partnering up with them again to share their expert advice. They have over 25 years of experience providing mental health support to children in schools so they (and Katie) know what they’re talking about! Take a look …

‘Check in’ with your child while you’re doing things together, so they get used to talking about their feelings. Talk to them about what’s worrying them, and what’s exciting them, about starting their new school. Whatever your child is worried about, bringing it out into the open can make it seem less scary. You might find it helpful to discuss changes in the past, like moving house or changing classes, an example of how they have coped before.

Show your child how you cope with difficult feelings and look after yourself when you feel overwhelmed. You too will have lived through big changes; be it starting secondary school when you were younger, starting a new job, or starting a new relationship. Talk to your child about how you felt, and how you dealt with your own concerns.

Supporting your child through a big change like starting a new school is not about wrapping them up in cotton wool – in fact, it’s the opposite. Help them to recognise their feelings and come up with things they can do to help them cope if they’re feeling anxious, worried or scared. This could be creating artwork, breathing exercises, reading a book or writing down their feelings.

You can help lessen their worries or anxieties by doing lots of prep. Practise tying the school tie, get them to pack their bag and work out where to keep important items like keys, calculator, bus pass, school ID card and phone. This could be their first time travelling to school by themselves, so it’s important to do some practise runs of the journey and have a back-up travel plan too. Getting a front door key can feel like a really big deal, so make sure they have had a good few tries of unlocking the door and turning off the house alarm if you have one.

And finally, don’t forget about your own wellbeing. Whether you’re a parent, carer, or a teacher with a class of 11-year-olds, this might be a stressful time for you. Look after yourself by having a cuppa and a chat with a friend, walking the dog or doing whatever chills you out. Children take their cues from others, so do your best to look after yourself too! 

Remember that your child still relies on you so look after yourself and make time for self-care because it helps you to be there for them.