This is the classic time of year when problems emerge at school, and if children are going to struggle, it will be now. During the first few weeks of the Autumn Term the novelty of new class, classroom, teacher is still there but by the end of September through to early October more of a sense of reality kicks in.
When they first start school, some children find it hard to express how that feeling of having to keep coming to school impacts on them. If they had the words they might say something like, ‘I like school and making new friends and the teachers are quite nice but they’re not my mummy, and I miss that nice together time with mummy where it’s just us and I can sneak and get my blanket after lunch’. Instead they might say things like, ‘I don’t like the teacher’ or ‘The other children are horrible’ or ‘The work is hard’. Some of what they’re saying may have some truth in it but it is best not to take it too seriously at this time of the year. Keep an eye on it and see if the complaints reduce. It is most likely that they will. And give a special emphasis to the times you can get to be snuggly and quiet together with your child.
Adolescents starting GCSE or A level courses may also find it hard to express what is happening for them. The sudden step up, the expectations of responsibility, can induce a sense of panic, with a background knowledge that this is just the beginning of the adult world. When in a panicked state, it can be really hard to express our feelings, so your adolescent might well be saying things like, ‘I don’t think this is for me. I think I’ll give it up’. Or they might get a cold or headache. A common complaint is ‘All the teachers are crap. They don’t know what they’re talking about.’ The reality is that perhaps the students aren’t sure what the teachers are talking about. With time they will feel more able to manage the work. There’s often not a lot to say with this age group. Just being there providing meals, lifts when they miss the school bus, the odd thoughtful treat just to let them know they’re still in your minds, even though the rest of the world seems to be telling them they’re on their own now – all of these things can help.
This time of year is the time when a sense of resolve enters children and adults, but often it can feel led by the adults and the children are pulled out of their dreamy summer holidays into the new academic year resolutions with a sense of resistance. Once they are in, it takes hold. Subjects are suddenly interesting and new relationships with work and people are a reason to get out of bed in the mornings. If problems still persist beyond the first term, they should be acted on more specifically. There are teams of adults around children and young people who want to help. Communication between adults is essential if problems persist.
Dr Angela Evans
Child & Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist
Member of the Association of Child Psychotherapists