John Cowan - Don't oversell school

Publish Date
Friday, 27 January 2017, 10:31AM
Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

By John Cowan

Gidday I’m John Cowan from, I am no doctor but I am predicting an epidemic of tummy aches in the first week of February.

I know I always got one on the first day of school after the holidays.  School is probably a lot nicer now than it was then but, even so, for many kids, starting back at school is a stressful, especially if it is a new school.  I think we can forgive them a few nerves.

Here are some tips:

Sympathise.  Sympathise does not mean agreement. Maybe you don’t think fears are well justified but you do agree with them that they are upset and you do let them know you care. You take their emotions seriously, even if you aren’t convinced that their fears  have substance.  By the way, contradiction is not reassurance. “Of course you won’t be bullied – everyone is going to be very nice to you. You’re just being silly – you’ll make lots of friends! And I am sure the teachers are just lovely”… well, that’s not likely to change their mind; they will just feel that you don’t care about them.  Let them get it out, let them feel your hug, then help them know that feeling scared is normal. Then give you opinion without rubbishing theirs. “I certainly hope that won’t happen, and do you know what? I really don’t think it will. My friends kids go to this school and they say it’s just fine”.

Facts flush away fears. Part of what might be really scaring your child is not what they know but what they don’t know.  If it is a new school they will be going to, go through the school’s website with your child.  Help them learn some staff names, to know what a typical day’s timetable looks like, to know what the rules are. If you can, walk around the school before the term starts. Another confidence builder is rehearsing things that might be new to them – drop-offs and pick-ups or the route to walk to school. 

There’s lots more tips on our website but one final thing: don’t oversell school. They are going to school, not Disneyland. School is seldom as bad as kids say it is, but neither is it as good as some parents make out, especially to a child who is about to start school.  “You are just going love school! It’s wonderful!” Perhaps, but a lot of school life involves sitting still, being quiet, and learning, which can be quite hard work.  So don’t stray too far from the truth if you want to remain credible.

All the best for the new year, and I wish you well with the tummy aches.


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