What children worry about as they begin a new term

Educational Journey with EPHAT MUDENDA
SOME children might be unhappy about the end of the holiday as they think of facing various tasks and activities at school, yet for others, it’s simply exciting to go back to school to start a new term.

The anxieties are understandable as the newness of a term brings about uncertainty among schoolchildren. However, what they worry about at such a time varies with age. Those attending preschool, kindergarten, or grade one classes, for example, might just have a tough time with separation, particularly if they have limited experience being away from their parents.
At this level, children may be worried about getting hurt in school, as well as about dealing with certain practical logistics, including going to the ‘bathroom’ at school or even the possibility of not finding mum or dad or the person responsible for picking them up after class.
Older children may worry – among other things – about school performance in general, as they are aware that parents, guardians and teachers expect them to produce ‘acceptable’ results in their academic undertakings. Fully aware of the competition to outdo one another with regard to classwork, exercises and tests, they tend to evaluate each other, thereby causing tension among themselves.
For some, it could be about social concerns, too. They may be thinking about which subject teacher is nice to them and which ones scare them all the time. Their fellow learners’ temperaments also vary, and these almost always affect the way pupils relate to one another. Those who are in lower grades sometimes fear being picked or pushed around by the bigger boys and girls.
Apart from the fact that some children find it hard to fit in, in some groups within school set-ups – based on social status, for instance – others are simply made to feel out of place because they are ridiculed and laughed at for different reasons, including their appearance. And thinking of going back to school to face such challenges again is like a nightmare to them.
Those who are going back to boarding school may not only be worried about being homesick for the next three months, but also the challenge of how they should settle there – again; securing bed space, a mattress, a good locker, and adapting to a new diet, among other things, as well as getting used to a life ‘alone’ and far from one’s family.
Sometimes, children hear incorrect or exaggerated information from their fellow pupils. When they believe what they are told, they end up living in fear for as long as they attend school. For instance, they may hear of a particular subject teacher who is ‘mean’. The result would be that, once they believe this is how that particular teacher is, they will end up hating him or her. Therefore, every time they need to go back to school, like now that schools are opening, they may be preoccupied with how they’ll cope with that ‘mean’, ‘vicious’, ‘unfriendly’ teacher.
However we, as parents and guardians, must be able to offer reassurance and correct misunderstandings to put such fears to rest. Firstly, we should provide room for our children to freely express themselves with regard to their fears and worries that cause them not to be excited about getting back to school.
After carefully listening to them, then we can speak with them. Emphasing continuity is very important. Besides the fact that teachers will build on last term’s lessons, a child can maintain friends that he or she had before they closed school. Sharing your confidence in the child’s ability to cope at school is vital, as young ones look to elderly people to help them come to terms with all the expectations that school will offer in the new term.
Assuring them that all will be well is one of the parents’ duties. Children pick up on their parents’ and guardians’ feelings, react to them, and then magnify them. We should know that our attitude has a strong influence on how our children view the beginning of the new term.
As schoolchildren move from the ‘laid-back fun’ – during the holiday – to rules, homework, and routines at school, parents, guardians and teachers should all be there to ensure young ones travel safely in their educational journey.

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