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Preparing Your Child For Back To School - August 6, 2015
As we near back to school time we are repeatedly asked about ways to identify stress in children and help kids prepare for the transition. Here are a few of our thoughts on ways to start on the right foot.
First of all, look for “red flags” that your child is feeling concerned about the
upcoming school year (or anything in general):
How you can address these concerns will vary slightly with each child’s age. For older children who have the vocabulary necessary, it may be possible to talk through their concerns. Often times, the best place for conversations is while doing other activities. Talk to your child while driving in the car or playing a game. The goal is for them to not feel pressured to discuss concerns. Just listen to what they have to say. Talk through any concerns they may have by problem solving and preparing for uncertainty. Children may also need help adjusting to the new schedule. Start early. Get them used to getting up in the morning and heading out the door. Also in the evenings, get them used to “homework time” and having a routine. Trying to make mornings and evenings as calm as possible should be the goal. This may mean planning meals ahead and preparing breakfasts and/or lunches the night before. Help them getting excited about going back to school. Talk about all the fun new opportunities that they will have in the coming year. Go school supply shopping. Let them set up a homework area at home with supplies of their choosing. Giving them ownership of the space makes them feel better about having the space. Lastly, don’t let go of summer fun entirely. Help them keep memories of the summer by making a scrap book or writing a story about what they did over the summer. Talk about any activities that they would like to continue during the school year. Will they have time for after school activities and programs? How much work load can they expect in the coming year?
You can also discuss stress coping techniques with your child. Listen to their concerns. Make sure they are eating a balanced diet and getting adequate sleep. Encourage them to engage in physical activity. Limit screen time with electronics. Discuss rules and expectations for free time and work time during the school year.
For younger kids it is a great idea to go to the library and check out books about separation and going back to school. The “Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn is a classic. Frequently, we recommend drawing a heart on their hand to remind them how much you love them. Talk through what will happen during their day. Let them know who they should talk to if they have any problems and remind them of all the friends they will see. Make sure to let them know where you will be while they are at school and remind them of when they will see you again. Another idea is to find an older child to buddy up with them and help them get on and off the bus as well as to the correct class. Remember to focus on the exciting new things they will get to do and the new people they met. When they get home remember to ask specific questions. If they say they did “nothing”, ask them what the best part of their day was and go from there!
School should be fun and exciting. If your child continues to experience stress and anxiety, feel free to call us for a phone consultation. We are always happy to assist.
Amber Illum, MA LPC
Suzie McGarvey, Med, LPC
The Therapist Blog