If I had a magic wand I would wish that all children of all ages go back to school with a happy heart and a thriving spirit. Going from lazy days and late nights, where there is little pressure and the goal is to have a much fun as possible, back to the structure and pressures of school life can be challenging for kids and parents. Every child and parent responds differently to this transition. Some kiddos will adjust easily and go back to school with little or no anxiety and perhaps even with anticipation and excitement. Others may feel a little nervous about going back to school. This is healthy. Then there are those kiddos that experience high levels of stress about this, often accompanied by anxiety, fears and negative thoughts and feelings.
One of the best gifts you can give your child this time of the year is the gift of ensuring that he or she starts the new school year in a stress-less way. Of course, there are all those practical things that you need to focus on such as buying school supplies, clothes, backpacks, lunch boxes; reviewing the materials sent by the school, signups for after-school sports and activities, and more. These things are what I call the ‘outside stuff.’ Then there is the inside stuff. This will be different for different kids and refers to what your child is thinking, feeling and needing.
Here are some tips about how to recognize and deal with your child’s ”inside stuff.” For the video version of this click on the video at the bottom of the blog.
- Be mindful of your child’s behavior and the kind of things he or she is saying about going back to school. Most kids will express the wish that the summer was not coming to an end. Who can blame them?! Be aware, though, of whether your child seems more agitated about this than what would be just the normal wish that summer vacation would go on forever.
- If you are seeing high anxiety then gently draw your child out as to what they are thinking and feeling. Get into their world and understand what it feels like for them. It is important not to dismiss his thoughts and feelings as being silly or wrong. Don’t tell him that he doesn’t need to feel that way. Validate that what she feels is real for her, that many kids feel the same way and that you are there to help her. Perhaps remind her of the aspects of school she loved last year.
- If something happened last year that made your child unhappy, he is probably thinking that more of the same is going to happen. Make sure that you inform the school about this and about what your child needs to feel safe and confident. It will be a great benefit to your child if you can identify and begin addressing a potential issue before school starts. Schools appreciate the efforts of parents to remedy problems as soon as they are recognized. Reassure your child that you and the school are working together to make sure that he enjoys the new school year.
- See if you can schedule some time for your child to be with some of the kids he likes, that are also going to be in his class. Social worries are huge for kids and can cause a lot of anxiety about the start of school.
- Keep the home environment stress-free, calm, positive and cheerful. Let your child help you fix and update the place where she will keep her school books and be doing homework.
- Begin to put some structure in place. Re-establish bedtime and meal time routines. Start letting them go to bed earlier and waking up earlier.
- Last but by no means least be sure that your child is in good physical and mental health. Remember that when your child experiences high stress, the chemistry that is spurting in his body and brain will color the way he:
- Feels about the teacher
- Adapts to the structure
- Socializes and interacts with other kids
- Learns and absorbs new information
- Feels about himself
If you think your child is showing signs of high stress levels consider giving him some good quality herbs or supplements that will calm him and keep her focused. These are safe and can make a great difference to the attitude and mindset with which your child starts school.
Do you have some advice for moms and dads reading this? I know they would be so glad to hear from you. And so would I!