As the summer holidays near an end, back-to-school anxiety will be soaring in most homes. Routines need to established, supplies have to be bought, schedules need to be checked and new lunch-box options explored.
You aren’t alone in this frenzied transition from holiday hours – when your child is up late most nights watching television or playing – to an 8pm-bedtime routine that has to be followed when the schools reopen.
Whether your child is starting at a new school or moving up a grade, we asked educational experts and experienced parents to provide advice and tips on how best to cope with the stress.
Dr Samineh I Shaheem, director of learning and development at Kawader institute in Dubai
My advice is based on five main areas that need attention: sleep, diet, activities, thoughts and future plans.
Sleep Children and teenagers need to get into a sleep routine a week before school starts. Their body should readjust to sleeping at 9pm, for example, and waking up at 7am the next morning.
Diet Sweets, snacks and junk food that have become part of the diet during the summer break must be replaced with a balanced diet of vegetables, protein, carbs and fruits. This will help children sleep better, have more energy during the day and think more clearly.
Activities Try to encourage more reading and writing about two weeks before school starts. Plan activities such as keeping a journal, writing about their summer holiday or summarising the main theme of a book they have been reading.
Thoughts This is an interesting dimension as it deals with the child's expectations, fears and insecurities. Avoid general questions such as: "Are you worried about anything?" Instead ask specific questions that will help guide your conversation. Such questions include: "Are you excited about seeing your friends?" or "Are you nervous about the first day of school?" These conversations will allow parents to clarify doubts, ease anxieties and encourage a more balanced and positive attitude about returning to school.
Future plans Don't let your kids focus on the summer ending. Instead, direct their attention to the next family holiday, Christmas holiday or future plans that they can start getting excited about. Through this strategy, children learn resilience and the ability to quickly recover from feeling disappointed about something ending.
Wayne MacInnis, principal at Raha International School Abu Dhabi
We expect parents to take steps to ensure their child’s first few days are enjoyable and anxiety-free.
Visit the school website Get up to date with all the information pertaining to schedules and guidelines, which are on the website.
Purchase books and supplies Get the uniforms and other necessary supplies and textbooks well in advance. Involve the children in the buying process for a sense of responsibility.
Fee payment Unpaid fees can cause a delay in entry into a grade. Make sure fees are paid to avoid stress to your child.
Update the school nurse Make sure the nurse has all the health forms, is aware of medical conditions that need to be monitored and provide the right contact details.
Attend the orientation The school hosts an orientation for new students and their parents. It's a good time to meet the teachers, visit the classes and set up a communication channel with the staff.
Back to routine Be mindful of bedtime. Children should be getting between eight and 12 hours of sleep, depending on their age.
Work out their schedules Sit down with the children and work out designated places and times for homework at home. Plan out the extra-curricular activities they will be taking during the school year.
Adeyela Bennett, Ras Al Khaimah-based mother of Breanne and Brooke, who are in grade two at Ras Al Khaimah Academy
I’ve been following this routine for a few years with good results. It makes the first week back quite easy for my children.
Get talking about school Encourage and motivate them into getting excited about school with comments such as: "Wow, school is starting soon and you'll get to meet all your friends and teachers."
Reading and writing If you haven't been reading with them all summer, get back to 30 minutes of reading every day, starting a few weeks before school begins. Also, get them into the habit of writing every day.
Getting ready for the first day Buy their stationery a week before, keep their uniforms ready and decide on their lunch-box menu the night before.