The Challenges and Concerns for Young People, Parents and Carers
The Back-to-School Need to Knows
Last Updated on 1st September 2022
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Going back to school can be an exciting time for carers, parents and pupils alike, but it can also be a challenging period, full of uncertainties and unknowns.
In this guide to the back-to-school need-to-knows, we take a look at some of those concerns from the perspective of both parents/carers and young people to help your family have a safer, smoother back-to-school transition.
First Day Nerves
The first day of term can be hectic. It’s probably been a few weeks or months since the school morning routine was fully in flow and the family is out of practice!
In addition to the usual day-to-day morning routine of breakfasts, herding the family, getting ready for work, and finding car keys, there’s now worries about how your child or young person will get on throughout the day.
From a Young Person’s Perspective
For some children, this will be their first day in a new school, with unfamiliar faces everywhere, a new ‘going to school’ routine and confusing buildings to navigate. If it’s a new school due to a family move, there might be a whole town or city to get to know and even a different accent to try and understand.
For others, it might be the same familiar faces and friends they know well but this doesn’t mean it won’t be daunting to step foot inside the classroom again.
Any or all of these factors can cause a child or young person to feel stressed and worried. Some young people will be going through hormonal and body changes or have had changes over the summer months that could leave them feeling insecure or ‘different’ already.
Get lunches, uniforms and school bags ready the night before so it’s a few less things to worry about in the morning. Involve your child or young person in this – the process of organising might help them get a better night’s sleep as they know these tasks are completed.
If they need to go on an unfamiliar bus journey to reach school, can you do a practice run of this journey together? If you’re driving them there, do they know what time you’ll be leaving and what time they will arrive? Ask them what they want for breakfast in the morning. The more areas that you can provide reassurance and reliable information on, the less unknowns are on their mental list.
Ask the child or young person in your care how they’re feeling about the first day back at school. Even if they don’t seem to want to engage in an open conversation about feelings, make sure you’re watching out for any signs that they are feeling worried or upset, such as isolating themselves,a change in eating patterns, crying a lot or being very quiet. Visit our resources page on children’s mental health for more information and support.
The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep!
We all know how difficult it can be to get to sleep the night before a big presentation at work, a worrying doctor’s appointment or even an early morning flight! For your child or young person, the first day back at school could bring on the same fitful sleep and hours of tossing and turning.
The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children recommend that children aged 6- to 12-years-old get between 9 and 12 hours sleep a night, while young people 13- to 18-years-old have 8 to 10 hours sleep per night.
To help your child get the best night’s sleep they can before their first day back to school, turn screens off at least 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.
Thinking that your child might be the target of bullies is harrowing – no one wants to see their child go through that and feel helpless or like you can’t protect them from that pain.
4 in 10 children aged 8-17 have experienced bullying either online or offline.
All children and young people have a right to live in a safe and healthy environment free from bullying and to have access to resources and the support needed to deal with bullying should it occur.
From a Young Person’s Perspective
For many children, and especially young people, bullying is something they are sadly likely to be exposed to at some point. This could be witnessing harassment of others online, experiencing being bullied first-hand or even bullying others themselves.
They may have been targeted online by bullies over the school holiday and now must face them in-person.
The frequency of bullying combined with a fear of potentially putting themselves in the firing line means that a young person might be afraid to be open with their trusted adults and talk about it.
The first day back at school can be full of social nuances, pressures of first impressions and judgements between pupils. Even if they’ve never been a victim of bullying before, changes in their appearance, family life, such as financial or family dynamics, or attending a new school, could open up worries of being targeted.
Read our resources on bullying, including cyberbullying and trolling for further information and advice.
FOMO and The Cost of Living
As the cost-of-living crisis continues, many parents and carers are feeling the pinch and families around the UK are having to make tough decisions when it comes to budgeting. Those little luxuries might not be an option anymore as families may not be able to afford the current trendy brands, new shoes etc., but instead have to opt for cheaper generic versions.
There may also be a bigger discrepancy between the types of summer holidays experienced amongst pupils. For some, the summer holidays may have been a more low-key affair, with happy family memories made in and around the home. For others, they may have been abroad or on grand adventures. This can also apply to upcoming school trips that now some families may not be able to afford to fund.
What is FOMO?
An acronym for ‘fear of missing out’, FOMO is a slang term that can apply to a variety of situations but generally means that someone feels they are missing out on something good by not attending.
From a Young Person’s Perspective
Although choosing cheaper brands and forgoing the latest fashions and trends for young people is the sensible, logical, and sometimes necessary decision, it might be difficult for a young person to understand this. Even if they do know and appreciate that money is tight, there are still outside pressures to ‘fit in’. Social media, peer groups and the fear of harassment and bullying from others can all lead to feeling frustrated with the situation.
If your child or young person does not fully comprehend the situation, it will be difficult for them to make peace with the decisions you’re making. Remind them (and yourselves!) that the cost-of-living crisis is not due to bad decisions made by you or your family but due to socioeconomic factors beyond your control.
Think about other options, if possible. Does the young person in your care get pocket money? Is there a possibility of helping them work out a budget so they can save up for that pair of trainers they desperately want?
Ask them how they feel about social media and its influence on their wants and feelings when it comes to owning the latest gadget or having a branded piece of clothing. You can talk about how social media influencers work, including that they are paid to advertise and often may not even use or like the product themselves. Keep the conversation lighthearted and try not to come across as judgmental or angry. It’s perfectly natural for a young person to look up to influencers on social media and to turn to others for inspiration and guidance – they are often still figuring out who they are and what they like and may also be worried about being ‘different’ or standing out from the crowd.
Screen Time Routines
During the summer months, it’s normal for healthy screen time habits to slip. Now that it’s back to school time, life is getting back into more stable routines and that applies to how we use our screens, too.
After a summer of digital freedom to use devices whenever they want, the switch into a more structured routine might feel limiting. It might feel like you’re taking away something that’s a big part of their lives. Remember, whether it’s a gaming console or a mobile phone, young people are usually using devices to meet a lot of their social needs.
Young people are also using devices for entertainment and so being without them, may make them feel bored, frustrated and upset with you for taking away their source of fun.
It’s also worth mentioning that digital devices can be addictive and, even if a young person doesn’t have a serious addiction to the online world, the change could be jarring.
Just taking away time spent in front of screens without suggesting alternative activities may well end in frustration and boredom! Come up with some ideas as a family, remembering to include solo activities also, especially if the young person in your life values time spent alone to unwind.
The first day back at school is a special occasion, one that is often marked by taking the classic ‘back to school’ photo of the child or young person standing in their uniform before they leave to go to school. This is then usually shared with friends and family and often posted on social media.
The online sharing of photos of children by parents is often referred to as ‘sharenting’ and there’s nothing fundamentally wrong about that. However, there are some safety concerns that should be taken into consideration before you share, including identity fraud, safety concerns and the misuse of images by online predators.
From a Young Person’s Perspective
Sharing photos or videos of a child or young person without their consent may be embarrassing or upsetting for them, now or in their future. They may not like the photograph, they may not like being the centre of attention, even amongst their family members, or they could be worried about strangers seeing it without their express permission.
Barclays bank has forecast that by 2030, sharenting could be responsible for two-thirds of all identity fraud. Check you have the strongest possible safety settings on all your social media and make sure you know exactly who will be able to view your uploads. Consider restricting where you share photos and videos of your children online and think about keeping them viewable to only family and close friends.
Discuss where you would like to share any photographs or videos you take of the young person in your life and ask them if this is okay. This will help increase their trust in you and also teach them about image ownership.
Blur: Download a photo blurring App from the Appstore (iOS) or Google Play Store (Android). Search ‘blur photo’ to find a list and click download on the app of your choice. Here, we’ve used an app that requires you to upload your photo, use the brush tool to cover the face or object you want to hide and download your photo, ready to share safely with your friends and family.
Sticker: If you don’t want to download an app, you can use stickers. On Facebook for example, tap create a post as you usually would, tap on ‘stickers’ on the righthand side, choose your sticker and place it over your child’s face. This can be a great opportunity for your child to get involved too! Ask them to choose which sticker they want to cover their face and protect their identity online.
You can also use your phone. Again, we’re using iOS but you can also do this with your Android device. In your gallery, find the photo you want to post. Tap edit on the top right of the screen then click the button that looks like the tip of a pen. Use the pen to scribble over anything you want to hide. In this photo, both the house number and the car registration number are visible. Neither of these things should be shared in a public online space.
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