Returning to school

Starting school or going back after a break, no matter how old your children are, can feel difficult for children and young people. As a parent or carer, you can help them prepare.

We have some great advice from Action for Children and plenty of practical Back into school resources resources from The Children's Commissioner.

Ask how they're feeling

Talking about returning to school with your child can help them to understand how they feel.

Even if your child doesn't seem too worried, it's important to ask how they feel about returning to school. If they are worried, ask them what they feel anxious about. It's easier for you to support them if they have a particular concern. Reassure them it's OK to have these worries and praise them for sharing them with you.

Worries, anxious thoughts or anxiety can happen if your child feels out of control. It helps to find things they can control and start from there.

Ask what they will miss about not being at home. Are they worried they won't get to spend as much time with you? Reassure them and continue to make time for this once school goes back. You can also read advice on separation anxiety.

Talk to the teacher about any concerns so they're better prepared to support your child.

Manage your own worries

If you're worried about your child going to school, make sure you are taking care of your own mental health.

Read advice on parental burnout

You can also talk to someone in your support network. They may be having the same concerns.

Be positive when dropping off your child, even if you're not feeling your best. If you can, hide any worries as your child will pick up on these.

Make a plan

Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. Read advice on getting your child back into a sleep routine before they go back to school.

Plan for your new morning routine together, and try this in the run up to school starting.

Make sure there's time for breakfast, getting dressed and getting out the door. Can you make the school routine more enjoyable? For example, try making a morning playlist. Pack school bags in advance - it's one less thing to think about on the day. Plan your journey. You can practise this with your child before the first day. Children who have to get to school by themselves might be particularly nervous.

Managing anxiety

Anxious feelings can be overwhelming or even cause panic attacks. If you have concerns about your child's mental health seek support from your GP.

There are things you can do at home to look after your child or young person's mental health, such as making a soothing box to fill with items they like the look, smell, touch or taste of.

Young Minds also have some useful information on what to do if your child is anxious about going back to school.

Also see Looking after a child or young person's mental health on the Every Mind Matters website.

Help your child look forward to school

Your child will also have things to look forward to. These might include:

  • Seeing their friends again
  • Having renewed independence (taking themselves to and from school)
  • Their favourite subject and/or teacher
  • Getting back into a routine

If your children have not have seen their friends during the break, it can help to arrange a meet up beforehand. 

If your child doesn't want to go to school

If your child is still extremely anxious, find out what support is available if your child is refusing to go to school.