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Back to school anxiety? Top child psychologist shares expert advice – for both kids and parents

Starting a new school year can be nerve-wracking

Sophie Hamilton

The summer holidays are coming to a close and a new school year is beginning, which can mean worries for both children and parents alike.

After a very difficult period of time living through the coronavirus pandemic, school life is returning to normal, but many children will still be apprehensive about going up a year, meeting their new teacher or getting back to work after six weeks off.

So how can we calm our kids' niggles over the new school term?

Child psychologist, Dr Sam Wass, from TV series The Secret Life of 4 and 5 Year Olds shares some tips with HELLO!

MORE: 10 back to school traditions to start at home with your kids

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WATCH: Cosmic Kids yoga founder shares relaxation tips

How can parents help anxious children before the return to school?

Dr Sam says: "As parents, we often want to 'solve' a child’s problems, and to try to make negative emotions like nerves disappear - but this can often be counterproductive.

"One thing that can be helpful if you have a child who is worried is to talk the 'big day' through in advance."

MORE: 12 savvy money-saving Back to School tips for parents

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The start of school is a big day for parents and children alike

MORE: 10 best children’s books about anxiety for kids who worry

"When you’re together, the night before - cooking, or over dinner - it can be helpful to visualise exactly what’s going to be happening the next morning when they’re walking into school.

"Talking about how everybody will be excited and nervous, and what nerves feel like in your body (a faster heartbeat, sweaty palms, shallow breathing, and so on).

"One of the basic techniques of mindfulness is just about recognising emotions in ourselves, and describing them to others, and recognising that other people will be feeling the same emotions, too - and that is definitely a helpful thing for children, too."

sam-wass

TV's Dr Sam Wass

What if a child is too worried to go back to school - what should a parent do?

"Don’t panic! This type of thing is very normal and almost every child has a time at some point in their life when they announce that they don’t want to go back to school. 

"Schools are well used to coping with this, so it’s definitely worth letting the teacher now how the child is feeling.

"Children can often be much better at coaching each other to come back to school than parents, as they’re the best at understanding what it feels like."

Dr Sam Wass was working with, MumsNet accredited, Tilda Kids Rice as part of a campaign to provide helpful tips and advice on introducing new flavours and textures into children’s diets.

Tilda Kids is perfect for children who are weaned and happily eating solid food and helps to make mealtimes guilt-free, quick and easy. For more information and recipe inspiration visit tilda.com