It’s the time of year when the stores fill with great displays of school supplies and deals on kids clothing. As parents, we check off the list of recommended school supplies, find ideas on creating quality lunches and inventory our kid’s closets to know how to send our kids back to school in style. This year, I encourage you to consider started a new tradition to address any stress or anxiety your child may be experiencing.
If you think back to your early school years, you can probably remember the stress. This stress can be similar to the stress an adult would feel if they had to change jobs. An adult in this position would have to quickly adjust to many changes. There would be a new boss, coworkers, demands, and a schedule. Similarly, going back to school means coping with many changes in short amount of time. Some of these changes are:
A new teacher
New social group
New academic demands
A new schedule
How can parents help?
Begin sleep adjustment before school starts
Start adjusting their schedule with enough time to help their body and mind adjust. Most professional recommend that this adjustment begins two weeks before the first day of school. During these two weeks, you should start having your child go to sleep at an earlier bedtime with an earlier wake-up time. Remember that every child is different. Give your child more than two weeks if you have noticed your child struggling to maintain a healthy sleep schedule, or noticed them requiring more time to adjust to the school schedule in the past.
Facilitate bonding with the teacher and new peers
Attend your child’s school orientation to allow both you and your child to meet the teacher and even a few peers in the class. Before going to the orientation come up with a list of questions with your child that they would like to be answered. This will help reduce the anxiety by eliminating some of the unknown answers.
Throughout the school year, ask about the teacher and the other kids in the class. Taking an interest in your child’s peer groups encourages social development.
Talk about feelings
As you talk about feelings with your child it normalizes the fearful transition experience and reminds them that you care. Let your child know that it normal to experience many different emotions at the same time ranging from excitement to fear.
For younger children, consider purchasing feeling flash cards. These cards make talking about feelings fun and can be purchased at a number of online retailers.
Reassure your child that at the end of the school day you will see each other again. Remind them that it is very normal to feel nervous and it is okay to feel scared. If they have experienced another transition in school, ask them what could have made the transition easier.
Take care of yourself
Kids pick up on the stress that parent’s experience. Make sure that you are meeting your own basic needs and caring for yourself during this stressful time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that pausing for a couple deep breaths can help you refocus.