17 Sep Prepping for Back to School
As the summer is coming to an end, it is time for parents and kids to start thinking about heading back to school. Many children are excited to go back to school, but there is also some level of sadness about summer ending and anxiety about school starting again that can often be expected. Parents can help their children to be as prepared and ready to start school as possible.
One of the best ways to start to get children and teens ready to go back to school is to pay attention to their schedule. One of the benefits of summer vacation is that there is often a lot more flexibility in schedules and as a result, kids may stay up later and wake up later, eat at unpredictable times, etc. About one to two weeks before school starts is a great time to help and encourage kids to get back on a schedule that is closer to what they will be on when school starts. That means gradually adjusting the bedtime earlier and earlier, and making sure that kids are getting up closer and closer to school day wake-up times as well. Also do your best to try to make sure kids are eating at regular mealtimes and are eating a healthy breakfast, particularly if they were not in the habit of doing this during the summer.
Another important step to take is to encourage as much open communication as possible with your child. During mealtimes, times out shopping, or on the subway or in the car, check in with your child about how they are feeling about going back to school and any concerns they might have. You may also gain a lot of information by paying attention to the conversations they have with their friends in your presence about going back to school. Are they worried about making new friends, the academic load or their teachers? If you have an idea of anything that may be making them anxious, you can help them in a more effective manner. To start, make sure to validate your child’s concerns. It’s not going to be particularly helpful to tell them there is nothing to worry about or that they’ll be fine. If they have a worry, first tell them you can understand why they might be worried about that and then help them to address the issue. It is helpful to do this with your own sense of calm. If you seem anxious about the school year ahead, it will certainly impact your child! After hearing out their concerns and doing any problem-solving necessary you can offer encouragement that you trust in your child and their abilities. You can remind them of past successes or transitions that went well, as well as their strengths and abilities.
If your child is starting a new school, be sure to help your child weather this transition. If their new school offers orientation sessions or tours, plan to attend with your child. For older children and teens, you may want to consider picking a select number of extracurricular activities that will help them feel a part of the school community and to make friends. For younger children, parents can get involved and meet other parents and arrange play dates for their children to help them get to know their peers and classmates or reconnect with friends they didn’t see over the summer.
If at all possible, parents should try to keep their schedule as light as possible in the first week (or two!) of school. Many children will appreciate parents sending them off to school or perhaps even bringing them to school and/or picking them up on their first day or two. If parents can be around after-school or plan to have dinner with their kids in the first week of school, they will be able to hear how things are going and offer any support needed. Remember, if your child is having a difficult time to remain calm! It may take some time for children to adjust back to being in school or starting a new school so don’t despair if they aren’t thrilled right away. Also, get and stay involved in your child’s school. Get to know your child’s teacher(s) and any other important professionals in the school and find out the best ways to communicate with them and then do so if your child needs any help or support! If it is possible to volunteer, attend trips, etc even if only a limited times during the year, this will also help you to feel more involved and help children to see that you are supporting their education.
If you become concerned that your child is experiencing excessive anxiety about school and they do not improve within the first few weeks or are experiencing significant symptoms such as refusing to go to school, it may be beneficial to consult a mental health professional who can help.
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