By Rachel Morici, LPC
As your child transitions back to school, you might experience worries, fears and challenges. As a parent, you have watched your child grow from a dependent innocent toddler to a unique independent and self-sufficient human being. It can be hard to hand that control over to the school and people we might not know. Additionally, your child might have their own anxieties about what school will be like.
Here is a list of helpful ideas to help ease this transition and promote a sense of inner strength and resiliency for both parents and children.
- If attending a new school, try to visit your child’s school at least a week in advance so that they can become familiar with this new environment and important offices, such as the principal and the nurse.
- Children want to fit in, so support your kids by learning dress codes, required school supplies and school schedule details. Do this well in advance to avoid increasing anxiety by rushing to get things at the last minute.
- Start a bedtime schedule a week in advance to promote 8-10 hours of sleep a night. We tend to get cranky when we are tired as adults; so do our children.
- Promote positive thinking by instilling positive affirmations and visions for the up and coming school year; i.e. each morning for a week before the start of school, we say, “when class starts, I will get to see friends I have missed and make new friends. This year I will learn more about…, etc.” Encourage empowering self-affirmations, such as “I am smart; I love to learn; I can handle anything that comes my way.” Replace fear/dread with excitement & positive thoughts.*
Lead & Model Health Management of Emotions
- Children take their cue from their parents. If parents are calm, optimistic and supportive, children will feel both confident and competent.
- Let your child know that all kids are nervous about the first day of school.
- Talk with your children about their feelings, allowing a safe space at home for them to vent, ask questions and feel a sense of control. Never embarrass or demean your children’s feelings. Ask them how they would like to be helped during this transition. If you promote a child’s involvement in the process, they are more likely to happily comply.
- Be honest and share your own feelings. Let them know you will miss them and that they will enjoy school because it will present new and exciting experiences to them.
- Nurture, meet their needs, be empathic and compassionate while firm. Leave a love note in their lunch box that will remind them you are thinking of them.*
- Point out the positives of being in school and starting new experiences.
- Support your child by showing interest; talk with teachers, the nurse, the guidance counselor and the principal in advance. Tell them about any concerns you have regarding your child’s health or learning issues.
- Teach traffic safety & physical safety.
- Young children should know their name, how to spell it, their telephone number and the number of a safe and responsible adult that is designated by their parents.
- Teach your children the proper way in advance to deal with bullies by reporting them to either a teacher or counselor.
- Reassure your child that if any problems arise at school, you will be there to help resolve them.
- Include your children in responsibilities and preparation as much as possible. Use timers, assign chores like lunch prep each night.