Well summer break felt like a blink of an eye this year and I am behind on the monthly blog posts. Around here it’s back to school time, so a blog about this transitional time for students is appropriate. Some of my clients have already gone back to school this week as students or teachers and many are gearing up to start next week. It’s a time of change and many of different feelings. Some are very excited, some are extremely anxious or even sad and many are somewhere in between. Regardless, it’s safe to say it’s a time of many emotions and sometimes we feel many different things all at once. Here are some tips on how to help the first few weeks of your child’s school year be the most successful possible.
1. Talk to your children
Have conversations with your child about how they feel regarding going back to school and also about how those first few weeks are going once they are back. Don’t forget to ask about the positive feelings too. These conversations help your child feel heard and supported no matter how they feel about school starting.
2. Empathize and validate your children
Acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings about going back to school. If they are nervous, remind them that we all get nervous when starting new things. New beginnings can bring stressful feelings to all of us. And guess what? Pretty much everyone walking into that school building on the first day is going to feel at least a little bit nervous. Even the adults! It’s typical and okay to feel that way. If your child loves this time of year and is nothing but excited, encourage them to smile or say “hi” to a peer who is not feeling the same level of excitement. A smile or supportive word can go such a long way for those who are not feeling their best.
It’s no secret that going from late bedtimes and a more carefree summer schedule to the school schedule can be a challenging transition. Even kids who thrive on the schedule that school provides, can need time to adjust back to the bedtime routine and morning routine of the season. It’s always best to start getting back to the sleep schedule before school starts. Regardless of whether that’s possible or not, be patient with the transition back. Kids and teens can be more difficult than usual, have short fuses, etc. More likely than not, everyone will adjust to the new routine soon. Having a clear routine and expectations for the morning and the same for after school homework time is important.
4. Parent stress
No matter what year in school your child is entering, as a parent you have your own feelings about this. If your child has had a negative experience at school and going back to school is a difficult time, it’s important to acknowledge your own feelings about supporting your child. Being your child’s advocate can be a very draining role, make sure you are taking care of yourself and have the support you need as well. If you find that you need some additional support, individual therapy can be helpful. A pretty simple analogy is to think about the airbags on an airplane. They tell us to put ours on first before helping our dependents. There is a reason for that. We can’t support others if we don’t have what we need first.
All kids are different and feelings about returning to school varies greatly among individuals. It can be a very exciting time! A fresh beginning with many new and exciting possibilities. Some children need more support than others during this time. If your child is struggling with going back and this continues well into the beginning of the school year, it can be helpful to reach out to a mental health professional. During sessions your child’s and/or family’s individual needs are assessed and plans can be put into place to help.