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Preparing your child to go back to primary school

Going back to school after the holidays is always a big day – for children and their parents! And with children having spent more time at home due to the extended break, it may seem a bit more daunting than usual. But there are things you can do to get them ready to go back.

In this short film, head teacher Kevin Brack has practical tips and advice on things to discuss with your child if they’re worried about going back to primary school, to help you both feel better.

Helping your child prepare for primary school

Tip #1: Talk to them

It’s a good idea to talk to them about what they can expect when they go back. You can talk about the things that might be different because of safety precautions – our schools page has more information on this. As well as coronavirus-related changes, you can talk about other changes, like their new teacher, if you know who this will be, and any new topics they might be doing. Will they start learning a language? Or be starting a new sport?

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Tip #2: Keep a routine

Chances are you’ve all been out of your usual routine recently, with bedtimes creeping later and later and meal times all over the place. In the lead up to starting school, try to keep their bedtime and morning routines consistent, so that the return to school comes as less of a shock to the system – for them and for you! Sleep is really important for children, so it helps to have a nice, calming bedtime routine before they go back, with time to read and chat together. 

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Tip #3: Be excited

Your child picks up on your emotions so be happy and excited about them going back. Remind them of all the fun things, like seeing their friends, lessons they like, and play time. And ask them about what they’ve missed most about school. These positive feelings will rub off on them and help them start to look forward to going back.  

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Tip #4: Play schools

Get your child used to the idea of going back to school by getting their favourite toys and playing schools together. You can do things like helping them check their toys in to class, reading stories, counting things together, and colouring in. This is also a good game to play once your child is back at school, as it might bring to light any worries they have and help them work through them. 

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Tip #5: Keep them in the know

Many children don’t like change, or are afraid of things they don’t understand or don’t know about. Letting them know more about what will happen once they go back to school will help calm any worries. For example, let them know how they‘ll get to school, how they will get back, and what they'll do after school. Try not to spring any surprises on them!

If you’re worried about how your child will cope with all these changes you can get helpful tips on our pages on helping your child with worries about primary school and supporting your child’s mental health

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Tip #6: Set up some play dates

Your child probably hasn’t seen many of their friends during the winter restrictions. Set up some outdoor play dates if you can, so they can get used to seeing each other and playing together again before they go back to school. Our page on encouraging children to spend time with other people has advice on what you can do if they’re nervous about seeing other people again. Just make sure you all keep in line with the current regulations in your area.

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Tip #7: Get them to help you get ready to go back

There’s quite a lot to prepare before the kids go back, including sorting out their uniform, buying any new equipment they need, and cleaning out and organising their pencil case. These are all things they can help you with. By getting involved in activities like sharpening their pencils, labelling their belongings and choosing new pens, they’ll feel more involved in the process and in control, and excited to go back with their smart kit!

If you’re worried about money at the moment take a look at our financial support page to find out about any support you might be eligible for.

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Tip #8: Ask them what they’d like for their snack or packed lunch

Snacks and packed lunches are another way your child can get involved in ‘back to school’ decisions. Ask them what they’d like (bearing in mind any rules their school might have about food) and get them to help you write up a weekly ‘snack planner’ and shopping list. You could even make some healthy snacks together – we have some easy recipes you can try.

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Tip #9: Do a practise run.

After months of living in leggings and T-shirts (surely that’s not just us?) putting on a school uniform might seem a bit daunting, especially if it’s new and a bit stiff! Help them practise getting their uniform on and packing their school bag a day or two in advance. This will help calm any worries they may have about putting on a tie, tying their shoelaces, or remembering what they need for the day. And on the first day back, these things won’t feel so strange or intimidating for them – and you won’t have any awkward surprises, like finding their school shoes are now a size too small!

If your child seems worried about going back to school, you’ll find tips on how to reassure them on our pages on helping your child with worries about primary school and supporting your child’s mental health.

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Last updated: 22 Dec, 2020