Parents are being urged to help anxious children beat the back-to-school blues as the summer break comes to an end.
It is normal for children to display signs of anxiety when their routine is disrupted by the start of a new term, a psychologist said.
Dr Haneen Jarrar, a child psychologist at Camali Clinic in Dubai, called on parents to ease the transition from holidays to studies by getting children in school mode a week before they are back in class.
Young children can be afraid their parents will not collect them after school or might be scared of a new teacher who is still a stranger to them, she said.
“It’s completely normal after a long break, as the routine has been broken,” Dr Jarrar said. “You go on vacation or stay over at other people’s homes or hotels. It’s better to start preparing your children early on.
“A week before school starts, make them sleep early. Always follow guidelines for sleep according to age. A cranky child is more likely to be anxious, afraid and scared.
“Children have told me: ‘What if my mum never picks me up?’, ‘What if something bad happens to my mum?’ or ‘What if I want to call my mum and I can’t?’ Tell them the positive things about the school and tell them what they can do if they miss you.”
Some schools allow children to take special blankets and toys to comfort them. Parents need to make sure their child’s diet is healthy and cut TV time to ensure sound sleep. If they are going to a new school or from primary to secondary school, show them pictures and tell them what the class will look like.
Some schools also send the teacher’s photo beforehand, which helps the child to familiarise themselves with a new person in their life. When starting in a new school, children need a settling-down period of a maximum of two weeks.
Zarina Dalati, 34, a Filipina living in Dubai, has been preparing her daughter Sophia, 4, for school life in recent weeks.
Sophia starts school next week and is approaching the day with a mix of nervousness, anxiety and excitement. This is the first time she will be riding the bus alone and she is worried that she will not have any of her old friends there.
“She is anxious but she will get used to school,” Ms Dalati said. “I prepped her weeks ago and told her she is going to a big school and she is a big girl now. I told her the bus will come to collect her and parents are not allowed to go there.”
The mother believes it helps if children know what to expect instead of merely taking them to school without telling them anything.
“She is excited to ride the bus but I’m sure she will cry. I’m trying to make it positive,” Ms Dalati said.
Brendon Fulton, principal at Dubai British School, said younger pupils were introduced to new classes and teachers before the holiday so they felt more confident going back.
The school also has a programme that includes professional support and a mentoring programme to support pupils who may find it difficult to readjust.
“Giving pupils the opportunity to remain engaged during the holiday really helps,” Mr Fulton said.
“This needn’t be onerous homework packs but fun holiday projects that pupils know they will have an opportunity to get feedback on when they return.”