You’ve got through breakfast, a blazer-induced breakdown and sent the little people off to take on the world of academia with both socks on and a smile. You’ve got a glorious day ahead to get on with your life now the kids are back to school … then why do you feel so weird? 

Whether your child is a new starter, firmly ensconced in Secondary 1, or a college-dwelling teen who hasn’t noticed you for the past two weeks, it’s usual to feel a tug of emotion at the start of a new school term. No, you will not miss the requests for attention/money/food/screen time, but the change of routine and oddness of life in pandemic times can all add to an overload of feelings.  

“The start of school can often trigger a reflection among parents of how quickly time passes and how much things change,” says Meredith Hilton, Social and Emotional Counsellor at the Student Support Services Dulwich College Singapore (DCSG). “It’s normal to feel anxiety, and that can manifest itself in fears for your child or an irrational need to protect them. When the new term starts there can be an element of ‘What do I do now?’ Parents can sense a loss of connection throughout the day and the need to fill their time.”

With a new void in your life, it’s natural that worries about your child’s wellbeing can rise. Common thoughts can be:

What if school breaks our bond?
While it may feel tough, it is a normal, healthy stage of child development when children seek to pull away from the parent. They’re attempting to develop an identity apart from their family so try not to take it personally. 

What if my child can’t keep up in class?
Teachers will differentiate lessons as much as possible to meet every student where they’re at. There’s also a wide range of learning specialists and counsellors who are there to help support. 

What if I miss them too much?
Recognise and make space for your emotions – your anxiety can be transmitted to your children. Consider facing this new era as something fun that you and your child can cope with. Be confident and acknowledge yours and your child’s feelings and then problem solve together. 

What if they struggle to make friends?
Making and keeping friends is a skill, but it can come with challenges. Parents can nurture social skills by reading and talking about friendships with their children, planning playdates, practicing listening skills, and building empathy through activities that help others.  

What if they don’t like being at school?
Teachers understand and recognise adjustment and settling in periods and have the skills to actively engage students on all levels.  While an amount of worry is normal, it’s important to be mindful of when it might be getting out of hand.  “As a parent, when our anxiety hinders our ability to solve problems and help our child to solve theirs, it pays to take a step back,” says Nigel Edwards, also a member of the Student Support Services team at DCSG. “We must give our children space. Worrying is an attempt to control and we do it out of fear. The best thing we can do to show love is to trust the young people we’re raising.”  Below are some ways you can protect your wellbeing and in turn provide your children with the role model of the super-chill parent that they need.

Reach out to a friend or group.
Community support is so important, and reminds you that you are not alone. Check out all of the ANZA Activities available, from Ladies Nights to mahjong sessions, that will provide a feeling of belonging and take your mind off things.

Reconnect with a favourite hobby.
Or now that you have more time, focus your energy on trying something new.

Journal your feelings.
Expressive writing has been scientifically proven to provide myriad benefits including boosting mood, reducing the symptoms of depression, easing trauma and even improving memory.

Make something.
Create something with your child like a friendship bracelet that you can both wear as a reminder of one another.

Reach out to the school.
Visit the premises so you know your way around and meet the teachers that are regularly involved with your child.

Set up playdates.
Introduce your children to classmates before the school year starts so you can get to know their new friends too.  This also gives you the opportunity to talk to other parents and meet likeminded people.

Talk about your child’s feelings and thoughts.
Open the lines of communication with your child, even if it’s difficult for you to deal with. Doing so will assist you to fully understand what they’re going through and help you to be there if any problems arise. 

“Ultimately, you can’t control the experience of your child but you can control how you respond to it,” says Meredith. “Remember to treat yourself with kindness. Know that you’re allowed to feel your feelings and allow yourself time to go through this process.” 

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