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Father and daughter paint at one of Wansdyke Play Association's community sessions

Taking the trauma out of starting school

Thousands of young people across Wiltshire have just taken the major step of starting a new school and this can cause anxiety or stress for some.

For many it is the start of their school life, while others may have moved to a different school or college.

And the new faces, new routines and new rules they all encounter can sometimes prove challenging.

Charlotte Forward is the Professional Lead for 5 – 19-year-olds for our organisation, and we provide children’s health services in Wiltshire in partnership with Wiltshire Council.

She said: “Starting a new school year can cause anxiety for children for many reasons and it’s important to remember this is not uncommon.

“This may be due to fear of the unknown, worries about making new friendships, fear of the journey into school or even making sure they have the right clothes so they fit in with their peers. It can also be the first time they are away from parents for an extended time.”

“However, there are signs of anxiety that parents and carers can look out for.

“Children can struggle to talk about their feelings, particularly if they have a learning disability or additional need so look out for changes in behaviour that may suggest that they are struggling – sleeping patterns and eating habits may also change.

“They may also mention physical symptoms of anxiety such as stomach ache before bed or in the mornings.”

To help parents to ease this transition for their children there are a number of things they can do. For example:

  • Give their child time out to listen to their fears and provide reassurance- let them know it’s ok to feel like this and that they are there to listen to and help them
  • Focus on the positives of school such as joining a new after school club or making new friends
  • Children can feed off parent’s anxieties so trying to keep calm – giving them a routine for getting clothes and lunchboxes ready etc. can help ensure they are not panicked or rushed in the mornings and that they have a positive start to the day.
  • Children often love having a checklist to tick off for what they need for school each day so they can help – it’s also a great way to help them with learning about responsibility and self-care.
  • Remind children of a situation they were anxious about previously that turned out positively
  • Talk to the class teacher to find out what their child is like when in class for reassurance that they are settling on well.

Charlotte added: “This anxiety should settle as the new school year starts and a routine is established, but if it is on-going parents can seek additional support from the Wiltshire School Nursing Service who are there to support them.”

Parents can get access to advice and support from the School Nursing Service on 0300 247 0090 or email

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