Starting school is such a milestone in a child’s life – it’s a big new chapter and an exciting new adventure. Some children may seem very “school ready” totally up for it and raring to go, while for others it may seem the opposite. The same goes for parents – it’s a big new parenting chapter too! 

School is a huge part of the developmental journey, a time to learn, gain independence, make friends and have fun. But it’s a very child specific journey; our behaviour expert told us working to your child’s strengths and supporting their challenges is key. School represents newness and while new things can be fun and exciting, they can add “load” and this can feel overwhelming.  

Children’s Behaviour Consultant and Parent Coach, Livvy Gormally gave us her Top Ten Tips on how best to support your child at this time. Her tips don’t just relate to Reception starters; changing year groups, schools or key stages can also be met with degrees of readiness, even if the previous year they sailed through. Livvy told us 

  • Establish a routine that works for your family, cut back on all non essential extras. Keep a simple after school routine, and move timings forward to accommodate for extra tiredness if needed.  
  • Tiredness and overload are likely to be big triggers in the first half term and these can have an effect on behaviour, tolerance, listening, resilience and temperament. 
  • If your child seems easily triggered in the first few weeks, look at the whole picture and make little adjustments to accommodate – this may be with more scaffolding, with pre-emptive strategies, by breaking longer tasks down, offering more support with siblings or in creating structured downtime etc. 
  • Try not to be tempted by all things new. Play dates and after school clubs are often more challenging in those first few weeks. It’s absolutely ok to say NO!  
  • When there is a lot to remember with new routines, visual reminders and checklists can help support verbal instructions. This will also help to reduce the repeat instructions that can add increased frustrations all round. 
  • For kids who want to do it all themselves you may need to factor in more time, as uniforms can take longer to put on. Independence and choice often go hand in hand, so by saying “do you want help with your shoes or do you want to do it?” allows them to accept help without feeling like they’re not being independent. 
  • Sleep can be impacted as busy brains can take longer to shut down. Kids are often too tired to chat at pick up, but have lots to say at bedtime – try to offer some quiet times post school. This goes for older kids too, who are often expected to just bounce straight back into the old routine. Change can be very unsettling at any age, so a back to basics routine is good for them too.  
  • Try to avoid phrases like “you’ve got to go to sleep now or you’ll be too tired for school” as this can lead to worry and further dysregulation. If your child is having trouble sleeping it’s likely to be because there is so much new learning to process. Keep to a regular routine and this should settle as the newness fades.  
  • For any children experiencing separation anxiety, try to focus your language on your return. Say “I can’t wait to see you at pick up” as opposed to “I have to go now.” Speak to your child’s teacher about how to support a more anxious child, they may need a more structured plan. My youngest needed me to physically put her hand in the teacher’s hand by way of a handover – now she won’t even let me walk her to the bus stop! 
  • Some behaviour peaks are expected when big changes happen, but they do tend to settle as the school routine becomes more established. 

If you need any advice or support, get in touch 

Livvy Gormally  – Children’s Behaviour Consultant and Parent Coach 

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