There are many strategies that you can employ to help make the transition from school holidays to term-time more comfortable. Some are planning and organisational strategies to reduce stress and enhance quality of life. Others are making use of your child’s powerful subconscious mind and using the imagination to prepare with mental rehearsal.
Create a fabulous first day
Whether it is the child’s first day at school, or they are returning for the next year, gentle preparation and guided imagination work can be helpful to positively influence what is to come. You can work together to imagine the walk to school, wearing their new clothes, using their new books, pens and bag, even having fun at break time. Even better, when this is a well-established practice, you can build in some guided imagination relating to the child successfully overcoming any obstacles or challenges.
Your life will be different in term-time. You may be back at work, perhaps having even more demands placed upon you. If you find yourself getting pressured, take a few minutes as time out for yourself. At the very least, take three long, slow, deep breaths and repeat a calming affirmation, such as “I am calm, I am focused, I am relaxed”. Do remember that exercise is also a great stress-reducer, whether it is a walk with the dog, or even an active game of football or rounders with the kids.
Be the leader
When you want a defined action, rather than seeking approval from everyone, for everything, (e.g. “We are going to put the toys away in 5 minutes, okay?”), it can often be helpful to be factual and specific, (e.g. “you have had fun playing with your toys and now it is time to put them away”). Being the leader can help build a sense of security, resulting in a calmer home.
Routines = security
The subconscious mind likes routine. It has enough to do every day without having to pay attention to ever-changing routines. By creating routines (which can still be flexible) for homework, bedtime and other activities, this can build a sense of belonging and security which helps not just the child, but the parents as well. Even better is if the routines start to become established prior to the return to school, so there is a gentle transition, rather than a sudden shock which can then be blamed on school. Routines can be mapped out on a family calendar. This can show the child that everyone has things they do. This can support family dynamics.
Keep everyone appropriately informed. Use your communication skills to keep people in the loop. If children and adults know what is happening, or what is expected of them, they will be more secure. As a result, they will communicate more effectively, from a position of fact, rather than emotion and assumption. If you need to, assess and work on your communication skills, to ensure you are as effective as possible.
It can be tempting to pile all the ‘to do’ paperwork (i.e. homework!) in a corner and save it for when you and the kids have time… only to get stressed when you have to deal with it at the last minute. Instead, allocate some time each week to clearing that pile of work. Just before you do so, a 5-10-minute period of relaxation, meditation or self-hypnosis, can help you optimally focus on the task. It can also help to prepare for things the night before, rather than spending a frantic few minutes sorting out matching socks, homework bags and car keys all at the same time, 2 minutes before you absolutely must leave! It can also be helpful (and empowering!) to encourage your child to be organised. The more they can do for themselves, the greater the impact on their self-esteem and self-efficacy.
Create social networks at school
Attend social events and get involved with activities and events in your child’s school that interest you. If you are doing something that you hate (because you feel obliged), people will pick up on that, whereas if you are interested, so will they be. If you are shy or nervous about socialising at such occasions, then it can be helpful to use some mental rehearsal and practice how you want to behave and respond in those situations.
Keep expectations positive
Share positive memories of your time at school. If you had poor experiences at school, whether minor (e.g. not getting picked first for sport teams), or more significant (e.g. a mean teacher), or are still adversely affected by your school experiences, it can be more helpful to discuss this with a talking therapist (e.g. hypnotherapist), rather than suggest to your child that something unpleasant could happen. Would you say to a child, “ripping the plaster off will hurt” (in which case they will be looking for the hurt), or simply distract them with something more positive. By framing school as a positive experience, the child will look for the positives rather than the negatives.
Set realistic goals
Help your child set realistic goals for what they will be able to achieve. Un-achievable goals (aiming too high, higher than can be achieved) can be demotivating. In contrast, meeting an achievable goal, can encourage greater participation and engagement towards the next goal. Using ‘SMARTER’ can be a good way to help your child set effective goals:
- Specific – be detailed and factual
- Measurable – how will you both know when the goal has been achieved?
- Achievable – it needs to be within their sphere of control
- Realistic – something they have a reasonable chance of accomplishing
- Timely – what is the timeline for it to be achieved?
- Evaluation – will it be helpful to have an ongoing assessment of whether the goal is still appropriate?
- Review – when it has been achieved, what can be learned from this that can be applied to the next goal?
Consider your parent language
By using positive and directional language, to persuade and influence, you are focusing your child on what you want them to do, rather than suggest behaviours, thoughts and actions that you don’t want. For example, “Don’t forget to do your homework” introduces the possibility of the homework being forgotten. Whereas, “Do remember to do your homework” focuses the attention on remembering and doing. Instead of saying, “Don’t worry about the test tomorrow”, saying “You have worked hard and this will help in your test tomorrow” builds a more confidence response. Generally, it is far more helpful to focus the suggestions on what is wanted.
Whether using persuasive language, or imaginal rehearsal, self-soothing or other coping strategies, informal hypnosis approaches can enhance family life, particularly at times of transition between school holidays and term-time. If there are fears, phobias or other anxieties (parent/guardian or child), seeking the help of a qualified and experienced hypnotherapist can help eliminate unwanted habits, develop new more positive behaviours, address limiting beliefs, gain insight and achieve both conscious and sub-conscious change.
We hope that these back to school tips have been helpful to you. If you have any more questions about this topic or anything else for that matter, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks