Biggest fears about the back to school period

Back to school fears
Back to school fears Photo: Getty Images

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For many parents, the going back to school period is a time that is fraught with concerns and fears. 

It's a time when we worry about so many things, knowing that each term brings new challenges to face and overcome.  

Will our children settle back into the routine well?  Will they still like their teachers?  Will they still be happy?  Will their friendship circle remain the same?

These are some of the more common concerns amongst parents, although the list is endless. 

Sarah Wayland says that she dreads the process of settling her children back into school after a break. 

"You feel like you just get the little ones settled by the end of term, and then you have to start the process all over again," she says. "There's always a lot of kids crying at the school gates and refusing to separate from parents when term 4 begins."

According to psychologist Erin Bowe, this is a common issue for parents. 

"Children who started off the year with some anxiety in the morning may start to complain of a sore tummy or headache on Sunday night," she says. "After a break from school and friends, younger children may worry about adjusting back into a routine."

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Bowe says that parents can help ease anxiety by pointing out to children what will be the same, but also what might be different. 

"Even if you've done it a few times before, explain what will happen on the first morning back - "Mum will say goodbye to you outside the class, then you'll go in"," she explains. 

Bowe says that anxious children often just don't know what to do once they're on school grounds and they feel like all eyes are on them, noticing their discomfort. 

"It can really help to remind them that everyone is flustered on the first day back (including parents and teachers!), and most people are too focused on themselves to notice," advises Bowe. 

Bowe also recommends praising kids for their efforts getting through the anxiety and reassure them that the feelings will pass. 

For Samantha Jones, mum to 3, it's re-establishing the morning and sleep routines after the school holidays that cause her most stress. 

"We all get a bit slack in the holidays. Bedtimes get later, and mornings are slower," she says. "Getting back into the rhythm of things again when school returns definitely takes some adjustment… and a bit of tough love."

Jocelyn Brewer, child psychologist, says it needn't be this way.  

She says that kids benefit from having a sense of structure and, whilst the freedom and fun of school holidays is good to break up the year, routine can still be maintained in holidays too.

This can then make transitioning back to school easier.

"With daily schedules and plans to provide kids with a sense of what their week will involve means you can still have a routine in the holidays," she explains.  

"Keeping a set bed time during holidays is also useful, even if the alarm does go off as early and there's no rush out the door."

But it's not just the obvious that concerns many parents. There is also the reality that a new term may mean new sicknesses. 

"Intestinal worms are one of the most common childhood infections amongst schoolchildren in Australia, and most children will have a least one infection of worms in their school years," says Karen Faulkner, child health nurse. 

Faulkner says that as children play tactile games they easily spread worms from hand to mouth.

"They need to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water and apply particular attention to underneath their fingernails," explains Faulkner.  

Faulkner advises parents to keep their house clean and treat the whole family when one family member contracts worms.

"If you notice your child regularly scratching their bottom/anus, having persistent infections, especially urine infections, losing weight or suddenly becoming iron deficient, it is worth investigating for worms."

It is important to also be mindful that symptoms are not always present and a good idea to keep worming chocolate squares on hand (and out of reach) as a hassle-free solution if children pick it up at school.