Some Children will be going to school for the first time, others to a new school or riding the school bus for the first time. No matter how you look at it, for parents and children, back-to-school can be a stressful time of year.
Many parents while trying to balance work, a family and even preparing for back-to-school, often overlook their children’s anxieties about heading back to school. Without realizing it, they may be setting their kids up for emotional and behavioral failure.
It’s important that parents work with their children to build emotional resilience and help them manage their emotions in order to keep them psychological healthy and in the long run, help the parents be less stressed as well.
Children are incredibly resilient and capable of dealing with change, often more so than adults, but it’s important that parents provide an environment that fosters communication and sharing of thoughts and feelings about returning to school. Establishing this type of environment where sharing thoughts and feelings about school are encourage will also foster a healthier relationship overall between parent and child.
There are many things you can do to help prepare your child emotionally and psychologically for returning to school. The American Psychological Association (APA) offers the following tips:
- Practice the first day of school routine: Getting into a sleep routine before the first week of school will aide in easing the shock of waking up early. Organizing things at home—backpack, binder, lunchbox or cafeteria money—will help make the first morning go smoothly. Having healthy, yet kid-friendly lunches will help keep them energized throughout the day. Also, walking through the building and visiting your child’s locker and classroom will help ease anxiety of the unknown.
- Get to know your neighbors: If your child is starting a new school, walk around your block and get to know the neighborhood children. Try and set up a play date, or, for an older child, find out where neighborhood kids might go to safely hang out, like the community pool, recreation center or park.
- Talk to your child: Asking your children about their fears or worries about going back to school will help them share their burden. Inquire as to what they liked about their previous school or grade and see how those positives can be incorporated into their new experience.
- Empathize with your children: Change can be difficult, but also exciting. Let your children know that you are aware of what they’re going through and that you will be there to help them in the process. Nerves are normal, but highlight that not everything that is different is necessarily bad. It is important to encourage your children to face their fears instead of falling in to the trap of encouraging avoidance.
- Get involved and ask for help: Knowledge of the school and the community will better equip you to understand your child’s surroundings and the transition he or she is undergoing. Meeting members of your community and school will foster support for both you and your child. If you feel the stress of the school year is too much for you and your child to handle on your own, seeking expert advice from a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, will help you better manage and cope.