By Helenor Gilmour, Director of Insight, Beano Brain
Every January I, like millions of others, make my New Year’s resolutions. They may have become obsolete by February (OK, the 2nd week in January!) but the beginning of the calendar year seems the obvious time to take stock and plan afresh.
As adults we often assume that kids’ lives follow the same pattern as ours but in fact, September is THE most important month of the year for kids and teens. Because with the start of a new school year, September is the reboot month for families and kids – the month that everything starts afresh from homework schedules to friendship groups.
But let’s deal with the obvious question first - why don’t school years start in January? It’s all down to history. Until 1880 school wasn’t compulsory in England and many other parts of the world. So, at a time when children worked in fields and factories - often alongside their parents - the school year had to work around the busiest times on the farm or in industry. Obviously, it varied from country to country but generally children needed to be available throughout the longer, sunnier days. In fact, in some parts of the UK the autumn half term holiday still extends to 2 weeks because traditionally children helped out with the potato harvest!
So, September is the start of the school year and the start of so much more that’s new! New routines, new classmates, new teachers, new rules, new workloads and new pressures. It signals a return to homework after weeks of freedom and there’s often the promise of tests and exams on the horizon. Whilst for kids moving up or on to another school, it means finding their way around and adapting to a different, often much larger culture.
It’s no surprise then, that September can bring with it its own pressures – 39% of 7 – 14 year olds in the UK and 43% in the US already say they having been worrying about homework in the past month.
But September’s importance extends beyond just new school routines. Renewed, regular peer-to peer contact means that it’s about new friendships and solidifying existing friendship groups – we often hear of “vacancies” for best friends at this time of year!
And subsequently it’s often about fitting in (or choosing to stand out) and this is often where brands come in. Even for those wearing school uniform the choice of trainers, school jackets and school bags are hugely important, not only to fit in, but to also stamp their individuality. Whilst for the younger cohorts shopping trips to Target, Home Bargains or Smiggle to top up their stationery kits are an equally important ritual.
September often sets the agenda for kids’ and teens’ year of sport too. It’s when team trials happen and expectations are set. “Our team trials are next week – I’ll be quite happy with the B team” – Josh, age 11. And it’s when kids are most likely to allocate time to a new sport.
Associations like Brownies and Venture Scouts focus on bringing in new members as cohorts move up and new kids join, frequently eager to add to their various friendship groups and tribes (and to their party lists for the upcoming celebration season but more of that in next month’s Neuron!)
So maybe us adults should take a leaf out of kids’ books and take stock in September rather than trying to do so in those long, dark weeks of January? Who knows maybe the gym memberships might actually be used!
If you’d like to know more, please get in touch and use our brain. We’re here to help.