The summer comes to an end and EVERYTHING CHANGES: crazy schedules, new traffic patterns, battles over homework, and much, much more. No matter what age your child is, he/she will inevitably experience a range of emotions (e.g. jitters, panic, excitement, etc.) with the anticipation of a new school year. The good news is there are practices you can follow to maneuver through this transition smoothly!
Have a routine.
- There are things in life you can control and things that are out of your control. What your child experiences at school is highly variable, so you want to offer your child stability outside of school with a routine.
- The key to a good routine is to be consistent and specific. You want your child to know what to expect each morning and afternoon, especially if school is causing your child distress.
Begin your school routine BEFORE school starts.
- Approximately one week before school, begin to implement your routine. Enforce a sleep routine that will mimic that of school days, help your child organize backpacks and make sure all supplies are ready to go, offer healthy lunches to keep energy high throughout the day, etc.
- Athletes practice multiple times per week to ensure they are performing at the highest level for the big game. The same principle can be applied to preparing for the school year. If you begin good practices before school starts, the first day will be a piece of cake.
Talk and empathize with your child.
- In your child’s mind, you couldn’t possibly understand what they have to go through! Take the time to talk to your child about their concerns and really listen to what they are saying.
- Something that seems trivial to you may actually be a big deal to them. Instead of responding with “Everything will be ok,” let them know you understand their concerns. It’s also important to acknowledge that their concerns may or may not come to fruition and if they do, they are strong enough to handle them.
Be positive yet realistic about your child’s coping skills.
- Children look to their parents to gauge how dangerous a situation is and it is no different when it comes to new teachers, schools, friends, and grade levels. When your child comes to you with a concern, such as not knowing anyone in their class, encourage optimism. If you are optimistic, your child will be more optimistic as well.
- Again, avoid saying things will be fine because they may not be fine. Instead, offer your child stories of times they have been in similar situations and used their coping skills effectively.
- This doesn’t mean joining every parent club possible, however it does mean educating yourself about your child’s school and community. By understanding the expectations and inner workings of the school, you will have a better feel for what your child is going through. This will help you make your child’s transition easier.
- Get to know some of the faculty and other parents. Remember these people are going through some of the same things you and your child are, so they will be able to offer advice, support, comfort, help, etc. that you may not find elsewhere.
If school has already started, don’t fret, start now! There will be times throughout the school year that will be challenging for you and your child. If you are consistent with these practices, your child’s confidence will grow and he/she will cope more effectively with difficult situations that come up. Here’s to a great school year!