Parents can have mixed feelings about children returning to school after a long break. Whether you’re throwing your hands in the air with delight or you’re anxious about how they will manage the separation from you all over again, don’t worry, you're not alone.

Of course children can also experience different emotions about going back to school. They may be excited at a new term and being back with friends or apprehensive about the new school year. Young children may struggle with being separated from you due to their earlier experiences or with the prospect of starting at a new school. In all cases it can help to prepare your children in advance by talking about it.  

Back to routine

Some parents start by bringing back a stricter routine, including reinstating school day bedtimes, a few days before school starts again, helping to make the change back less of a shock.

It can also be helpful to ensure your child has met the new class teacher, become familiar with their new classroom and had more time to prepare for the transition if they find change hard to manage.

Talking about going back to school with your child and involving them in packing their bags and preparation can help very young children understand what it means.

It is really important to validate how children are feeling so that they can manage and process their feelings. You may find it helpful to have ‘what if’ conversations with your children. For example, “I wonder if you might be feeling worried about going back to school?” This will enable important conversations that will help you understand what is going on under the surface for your child.

Adoption UK Forum member and adoptive mum ‘Dimples’ puts together a 'what we will be doing' illustrated timetable so that everyone knows exactly what is happening. Monday's timetable might read:

  • 7.00am  Get up and get dressed
  • 7.30am  Have breakfast and brush teeth
  • 8.00am  Have hair done
  • 8.15am  Shoes on, lunch into bag ready to go
  • 3.00pm  Come home with Mrs Smith next door
  • 5.00pm  Tea time
  • 6.00pm  Family time
  • 7.00pm  Story time and brush teeth
  • 7.30pm  Bed time

Starting a new school

The first day at a new school can be very scary for children (and scary for the grown-ups too!). Children might be excited about growing up and moving on to something new, but these feelings can be mixed with fear at the sight of large buildings, worries about getting lost and being surrounded by lots of big and noisy children.

Here are some tips to help a child settle into a new school:

  • Visit the school with your child to meet teachers and see the building beforehand.
  • Show the child the school via the website (some schools have a virtual tour online).
  • Acknowledge any feelings of nervousness - try saying, “It's OK to feel nervous. Maybe your tummy is feeling tight because you are worried?”
  • Give advanced notice of the child's situation and particular needs. Ask for a meeting with the school class teacher and workers involved to talk about your anxieties and review this after a term to ensure your child’s needs are being met.
  • Try not to show any anxiety, as this might increase your child's anxiety.
  • Talk about the change with your child beforehand – discuss any worries and tell them where to go for information or advice, i.e. 'what happens if I get lost?'
  • Look through the school prospectus together. Discuss rules and regulations and uniform requirements.
  • Read books on first day at school. There are lots on the internet now that are really well illustrated to help you and your child feel as prepared as possible.
  • Let your child know that even though you're not with them in school that you're thinking about them. If possible give your child a special (indestructible and inexpensive) item that they can carry with them so they feel they are being held in mind.

If you require any additional support or advice on helping your child in the classroom or you feel your child's school would benefit from a presentation to the staff group, please contact our Adoption Support service then on 0845 519 0539 or email [email protected]