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Helping out with back to school nerves

October 31, 2013
Helping out with back to school nerves
So we're a couple of weeks into the new school year. The uniform is down from its holiday on top of the wardrobe, the school night curfew has been re-enforced, and PE kits are no longer festering at the back of the under-stairs cupboard. The 8.30am drill of "Get your shoes on, where's your lunchbox, have you got your violin?" can be heard in hallways all around the country, and we're off once more on the treadmill of term-time routine.

If you're anything like me, those first days of a new term are stressful. It takes me a while to ease myself back into the familiar pattern of homework and shoe-shining, the daily order of mundane acts that make up the school week, and the easing into a new season. But if it's a challenge for me, imagine what a big deal it is for the children!

A new school year often means new classmates, new teachers and changes to previous ways of learning. A confident child will embrace these new adventures, but for lots of kids change means anxiety, and the pressure of upping their game to cope with new academic goals can see them shattered by the end of the week.

It's sorely tempting to plonk them in front of the TV for the weekend, just to switch off their minds from the whirlwind of the school week, and it's true that kids do need some time to simply 'zone out' of busy minds every now and then. Over the summer I read an article in the Independent about screen time and childhood anxiety, and it really struck a chord. You see I have the yin and yang of children - one bounds energetically into every new experience; the other suffers tummy aches when things change, and has to be coaxed into unfamiliar endeavours.

Interestingly, my children have benefitted from their Saturday morning Stagecoach classes in very different ways, and yet it all boils down to their confidence in life. Whilst one tears off every weekend craving the lead part, the solo, the limelight, the other had to find his favourite teacher before I could leave him. Swapping one trusted adult for the other, he would sit quietly in his drama session, only singing if the group sang, and made sure he was at the back for the dance routines. He refused to take part in his first end of term performance, despite the fact that he won the Star Performer award that term.

But gradually, with individual attention from engaging teachers, my timid boy gained courage, overcoming his nerves, to engage with his peers and start having fun. The small voice got bigger, the dance steps more confident, and finally, 3 whole lines were spoken loud and clear in his Early Stages performance.

That boy now marches into school most mornings with the self-esteem to know he will cope, and the knowledge that if he faces a new challenge today, he will eventually be able to master it. Stagecoach is not just about performing arts, it's a lesson in life-skills that will serve him well forever.