Back to school: Parents, students prepare as new term begins in UAE
Good preparation can be the key to tackling these most common back-to-school worries.
It's that time of year again. Almost as quickly as the summer school vacation came around, it's now coming to an end again this week.
Aside from the obvious preparation when it comes to getting students into back-to-school mode, preparing both parents and children mentally and emotionally for the new term is just as important as getting the uniforms and stationary in order.
After months of late nights and late rises, parents and students find it difficult to readjust to the normal weekday routine as classes start again.
Speaking to several experts including a child psychiatrist and sleep specialists, Khaleej Times has learnt that good preparation can be the key to tackling these most common back-to-school worries.
Excitement, anticipation as new school term begins
Adam Masood, 13, Heading to Grade 9
I travelled to three countries during the holiday time, which was a lot of fun, but now it's time to get back to school after a really enjoyable break. I look forward to meeting my school friends after a long time and I'm excited to get stuck into sports and after-school activities. I was a little nervous about heading into Grade 9 maths, but I took the opportunity during the summer break to practise exercise material, which was recommended by teachers before going on break.
Mishal Faraz, Heading to Year 7
This academic year is a pivotal one for me as I'm moving from Year 6 to Year 7, so I'm going from primary to secondary. I will have a different colour uniform and also now instead of writing with pencils, I'll be writing with a pen. It's a whole lot of change and transition so it's natural to have a feeling of anticipation but at the same time I'm quite impatient to step into that new world and see what it holds. The only thing I'm not quite excited about is having an alarm clock waking me up early in the morning.
Humza Adnan, 11, Heading to Grade 7
My summer break was a good time to meet with family, grandparents and cousins, however, I have been missing my school friends. I really look forward to getting back to class and catching up with friends. I finished primary school and I'm going into secondary school, which makes me little nervous. There are a lot of new subjects in secondary school that I need to get use to. My older brother went to the same school so I have some idea of what to expect, which is quite helpful.
Mir F, Heading to Year 4
I'm quite excited about going back to school. It will be great to see my friends and teachers after the long break. Also, I will have a new subject this year, French, so I'm a little bit anxious about it. But at the same time, I look forward to learning new subjects. It will be nice to begin learning a new language along with English and Arabic. The beginning of the academic year is always a much awaited time for me- new beginnings, new dreams and a renewed sense of determination. What I'll miss though is I won't get as much time on my Xbox.
Dana A., Heading to Grade 8
I hope this year will be easier in terms of work and I'm aiming to get good grades. I also look forward to making new friends who are as ambitious as I am or more. Starting the new school year is always fun and I have had a good summer break, almost 2 months off school, so I am feeling refreshed and ready to start my new schooling challenges.
Mohamed Alahmadani, Studying Multimedia Design at AUS
As a student, regardless of whether I'm going back to school or university, I actually feel a little eager to start the year. I derive enjoyment from having assignments to work on and completing them, it gives me goals to strive for rather than sitting around doing nothing all day in long vacations. It may sound strange coming from a student, but I'd rather pick doing something than doing nothing any day of the week. I'm eager to start the year and strive to push my limits and achieve great results.
Dr Daniela Graf, child and youth psychiatrist at the German Neuroscience Centre in Dubai, said while students might have concerns about impending workloads and adjustments in their new classroom, some parents also deal with anxieties about sending their kids back to school. But the key is not projecting these feelings onto children.
"Parents should, in general, always try to stay as calm as possible while dealing with their own or their children's anxieties. If the parents let the kids feel that they are anxious themselves, they will inevitably transfer these anxieties onto their kids."
To ease these feelings, parents should talk to each other, to friends, other family members or directly to the teachers about their fears and concerns, she said. If anxieties do increase, simply pulling a child from school isn't the right way to deal with the issue.
"Parents should encourage their children that they have the abilities to deal with difficult situations at school and that it is not a problem to fail from time to time. Have a talk with a teacher in severe cases and just try to stay calm if your child opens up about their own worries."
Dr Graf said parents need to support their child in case of failure, encourage them to try again, let them have friends at home for a stay over to get to know their kids' social environment better, offer help with school work, and stay in touch with the class teacher or school counsellors.
Sleep, a must
For most children during the long summer break, play and relaxation have taken a front seat, with rules and regularity a distant memory.
With that comes a huge change in sleep patterns. But prior to joining school following a long break, parents must get sleep patterns back on track.
"It is important to start the transition early. Around 2-3 weeks before the start of the school year, move their bedtime back about 15 minutes from their normal summer schedule and gradually move back until they are going to bed at the appropriate school schedule time," Dr Hanan Al Suwaidi, consultant family physician at United Medical Centre, told Khaleej Times.
By doing this, the first few weeks of school won't be such a shock as they won't have to play catch-up with their new, earlier rising times.
Studies have shown that a lack of quality of sleep in children can increase the likelihood of anxiety, depression and even physical pain. All symptoms that don't bode well for a thriving student in the classroom.
Ideally, to encourage children to change their summer routine, parents need to practise the mentioned tips themselves too.
"Let the kids know that the 'back to school sleep programme' is for everybody and that the whole family participates in it."
With today's lifestyle habits often dictated by electronic devices, Sunil Kumar Dulam, sleep physiologist and technology services manager at The London Sleep Centre in Dubai, said staying up late to watch TV or play video games and the rise of social media activity all contribute to lack of sleep.
"This is not a good trend and children get easily wrapped up in doing this cycle every day. Sleep deprivation can have a toll on the child's immunity which can affect the body's defence from opportunistic infections."
Though there is no exact step pattern for a one-size-fits-all approach, Dulam said it is important to set the sleep pattern back for a smooth transition.
"Ideally, preschoolers aged three to five should get 10 to 13 hours of sleep; children aged six to 13 should get nine to 11 hours, and teens aged 14 to 17 should get about eight to 10 hours."