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Beating those back to school blues.

Embracing Back to School Anxiety: Preparing for September with Confidence

In my role as a solution-focused therapist and hypnotherapist, as well as a life coach, I frequently engage with teenagers and pre-teens. Many of these young individuals are in a pivotal phase of self-discovery, working to find their place and establish their identities. Unfortunately, the disruption caused by the pandemic has complicated this process.

Some seem to navigate this period more smoothly than others, yet appearances can be deceptive. Some teenagers confide in me, saying, "I'm only truly myself around my family," while others struggle even with that.

For these youngsters, school can pose formidable challenges. They must deal with an array of circumstances beyond their control, such as unfamiliar peers, subjects tha

t don't resonate with them, tensions in friendships, and the early morning starts that run contrary to a teenager's biology. Additionally, parents, preoccupied with their own responsibilities, tackle the lo

gistical feat of getting their children to school and back home.

Other challenges add further weight: concerns about exams, transitions between school years, GCSEs, A' levels, and the ever-increasing academic demands can create a formidable burden. As summer gradually gives way to September, a sense of apprehension can set in, escalating for some into full-blown school refusal. This is why now, while summer lingers, is a prime opportunity to foster your child's self-esteem, resilience, and self-belief—preparing them for the challenges of the autumn term.

This period is equally stressful for both parents and children. Coordinating uniforms, aligning work schedules with school pickups, and orchestrating the morning routine can turn tranquillity into a frenzy.

Anxious teenager
How can you prepare them for the term ahead?

So, how can you support your child as they grapple with returning to school during the holiday months? Begin by being self-aware. Maintain a calm outlook and discuss school in positive terms. As we know, anxiety can spread, and by remaining composed, you can prevent your worries from transferring to your child.


Utilising affirmations can wield significant influence in reshaping feelings and perceptions. Collaborate with your child to create affirmations that address their concerns and place them in prominent spots as visual reminders. Some examples include:

- I am safe

- I can seek help when needed

- I am ready to learn

- I am a good friend

- It's okay to make mistakes

- I can share my worries with an adult

- I learn from my experiences

- I am in control

- My voice matters

- I am calm and focused

- I am creative and curious

Domestic planning

Effectively navigating early mornings and busy evenings demands foresight. Particularly at the start of the term, following the tranquillity of holidays, a well-structured routine is crucial. Devote time to meticulous planning. Anticipate homework completion, allocate time for revisions, plan and batch cook some meals, and ensure that uniforms are organised. If the school run is new, consider practising it together before the term begins to facilitate adjustment.

Batch cook meals.
Batch cook meals

When significant changes, such as a house move or separation, are imminent or have occurred, engage in open conversations with your child. Approach the discussion with sensitivity, respecting their need for information at their pace.

Allocating relaxation time

Set aside weekends for quality family moments. Strive for a balance between planned activities and unstructured time to connect with each other without feeling overwhelmed by a packed schedule.

Exam anxiety

Addressing Exam Anxiety:

As students progress through their academic journey, exam anxiety can cast a shadow over their confidence. From the SATs onward, this anxiety can become a significant hurdle. In year 11, the looming reality of GCSEs can intensify these feelings. Moreover, older students in years 12 and 13 face their own set of challenges, grappling with the transition from GCSEs to A-levels or confronting the pressures of A-level mock exams.

Collaborative Revision Planning

To tackle this anxiety head-on, collaborate with your child to develop a strategic revision plan. Together, outline a study schedule that avoids the pitfalls of last-minute cramming. Break down subjects into manageable segments, allocating specific time slots for each. This approach helps prevent information overload and allows for more effective absorption of material. By pacing the revision process, your child can engage with the content in a more meaningful way, resulting in enhanced understanding and retention.

GCSE and A-level Students

For teenagers poised on the brink of GCSEs or A-levels, it's essential to provide targeted guidance for

Dealing with exam stress

successful exam preparation. Encourage short breaks between study sessions to recharge their focus and prevent burnout. Emphasise the importance of balanced nutrition, exercise, and sufficient sleep to support their cognitive function and overall well-being.

Each teenager is unique, so it's important to explore these strategies together and determine which ones resonate most with your child. By adopting a holistic approach and incorporating these techniques into their routine, your child can approach their exams with greater confidence and a calmer mindset.

Create a realistic study timetable Help your child design a well-structured study timetable that allocates specific time slots for different subjects and topics. This prevents last-minute cramming and provides a clear roadmap for what needs to be covered.

Set achievable goals Break down the revision goals into smaller, achievable tasks. Celebrating the completion of these smaller milestones can boost motivation and a sense of accomplishment.

Practice mindfulness Introduce mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing exercises and short meditation sessions. These practices can help your child stay centered and reduce feelings of anxiety.

Healthy lifestyle habits Encourage regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep. Physical activity and proper nutrition have a positive impact on mood, energy levels, and cognitive function.

Effective study techniques Guide your child on proven study techniques, such as active recall (quizzing themselves on the material), spaced repetition (reviewing material over time), and summarization (condensing information into key points).

Take regular breaks Remind them to take short breaks during study sessions. Stepping away from their study materials for a few minutes can help refresh their focus and prevent burnout.

Remember Hydration and nutrition Emphasise the importance of staying hydrated and eating brain-boosting foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Practise mindful breathing Teach them techniques like the 4-7-8 breathing exercise, where they inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. This can help them quickly manage stress and anxiety.

Don’t forget to move! Encourage short bursts of physical activity between study sessions. Even a quick walk or some stretching can help release tension and improve concentration.

Remember positive self talk Teach your child to replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Encourage them to remind themselves of their capabilities and past successes.

Remember the support system Allow time for social interactions with friends and family. Talking about concerns and sharing experiences can provide emotional support and help alleviate stress.

Limit caffeine and sugar Excessive caffeine and sugary snacks can lead to energy crashes and heightened anxiety. Encourage moderation in their consumption.

Positive visualisation Encourage your child to visualise themselves succeeding in their exams. Positive visualisations can boost confidence and reduce anxiety.

Use those past papers Completing past papers under timed conditions can help your child become familiar with exam formats and improve time management.

Seek help If stress becomes overwhelming, remind your child that seeking help from teachers, tutors, or even a school counsellor is perfectly acceptable.

Each teenager is unique, so it's important to explore these strategies together and determine which ones resonate most with your child. By adopting a holistic approach and incorporating these techniques into their routine, your child can approach their exams with greater confidence and a calmer mindset.

Effective Revision Strategies for ADHD

When addressing the needs of students with ADHD, it's important to recognize that traditional study methods may not be as effective. Consider the following tailored revision strategies:

Multi-sensory learning Engage multiple senses during study sessions. Encourage your child to read out loud, use tactile materials like flashcards, and incorporate visual aids to reinforce information.

Structured time breaks Break revision periods into manageable chunks. Utilize techniques like the Pomodoro method, where focused study intervals are followed by short breaks, to sustain attention and maintain productivity.

Physical movement Incorporate movement into study sessions. Allow your child to stand, walk around, or use stress balls to channel excess energy, aiding focus and retention.

Mindfulness Techniques Teach mindfulness techniques to enhance concentration and manage distractions. Breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation can be invaluable tools for maintaining a calm and centred mindset.

Interactive Learning Leverage technology and interactive resources. Educational apps, online quizzes, and digital flashcards can provide a dynamic and engaging learning experience.

Visual Organisation Utilise visual aids for planning and organising. Mind maps, flowcharts, and colour-coded notes can help consolidate information and create a clear mental structure.

Vary Study Environments Allow flexibility in study environments. Some individuals with ADHD find it helpful to switch locations or adjust their surroundings to maintain engagement.

Regular Self Assessment Encourage your child to review their progress regularly. Self-assessment and self-testing can provide a sense of accomplishment and highlight areas that need further attention.

By adapting revision strategies to cater to the unique needs of those with ADHD, you can empower these students to overcome challenges and succeed in their exams. Ultimately, the goal is to provide a supportive environment that acknowledges their strengths and encourages their growth.

Pre-empting school refusal

As the term approaches, it's important for parents to be attuned to the possibility of school refusal and

School Refusal

to equip themselves with strategies to address it effectively. Recognise that school refusal can stem from various sources, such as anxiety, social challenges, or academic stress. To prepare for it, work on open communication with your child. Create an environment where they feel comfortable discussing their concerns and fears about returning to school.

Establishing a routine can provide a sense of security, so gradually reintroduce school-related activities into their daily schedule, like reading, discussing school topics, or visiting the school grounds. Collaborate with teachers and school staff to ensure a supportive transition back to the classroom.


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