The beginning of the school year can bring a variety of emotions for both children and parents. In my therapy office, I have the opportunity to hear about a lot of different thoughts and emotions that families experience at this time of year. Some of the ones that immediately come to mind are excitement, relief, anxiety, dread, uncertainty, sadness and more. Even for the child (and parent) who is excited about the return to school, this transition can cause stress. As a general rule, any change is accompanied by some level of stress. This is true even when it is a change that is desired.
In this post, I will walk through some tips to help you and your child successfully process and manage any stress that may emerge during the transition back to school.
• Allow space for all family members to acknowledge, accept and process their emotions about the upcoming school year. Plan to check in often about your child’s emotions. Listen and validate your child’s emotions, even if you don’t agree with them. This previous posts may help you explore effective coping strategies your child can use to cope with intense emotions.
• Parents should be mindful of separating their own emotions from their children’s emotions and be intentional in what information they share with their child. Remember that your child’s experiences in school may be different than your own. It is not uncommon for our own memories, good or bad, from childhood to be triggered as we watch our children move through school.
• When possible, include your child in making plans related to school. Can your child help shop for supplies? Can your child help plan their snacks? Can your child choose what outfit to wear for the first day of school?
• If your children have gotten on an unusual sleep or eating schedule during the summer, help them start getting back on the school schedule as soon as possible, so their bodies have time to adjust.
• Take advantage of opportunities to visit the school and meet your child’s teacher prior to the first day of school, so that your child may feel more comfortable.
• Connect with your child’s teacher to share any information that would help your child be successful in the classroom. Set up the lines of open communication early.
If you are sending a child off to kindergarten this year, you may also want to check out this previous post: Preparing to Send Your Child to Kindergarten.
Best wishes for a wonderful school year!