Getting your child back-to-school ready
Posted August 4
It’s that time of year again when the stores fill with great displays of school supplies and deals on kids' clothing.
As parents, we check off the list of recommended school supplies, find ideas on creating quality lunches, and inventory our kids' closets to know how to send them back to school in style. This year, I encourage you to consider starting a new tradition to address any stress or anxiety your child may be experiencing.
If you think back to your early school years, you can probably remember the stress. It can be similar to the stress an adult would feel if he or she had to change jobs. There would be a new boss, new co-workers, new demands and a new schedule.
Similarly, going back to school means your child will be coping with many changes in the short amount of time. Some of these changes include a new teacher, a new social group, new academic demands and a new schedule.
So, how can you help?
Begin sleep adjustment before school starts
Start adjusting your kids' sleep schedule with enough time to help their body and mind adjust. Professionals at sleep.org recommend this adjustment begin two weeks before the first day of school.
During these two weeks, you should start having your child go to sleep at an earlier bedtime and waking up at an earlier time. Remember that every child is different. Give your kids more than two weeks if you have noticed they are struggling to maintain a healthy sleep schedule, or you think they may need more time to adjust.
Facilitate bonding with the teacher and new peers
Attend your child’s school orientation to allow both you and your child to meet the teacher and even a few fellow students in the class. Before going to the orientation, sit down with your child and come up with a list of questions he or she would like to be answered. This will help reduce the anxiety by eliminating some of the unknown answers.
Throughout the school year, talk with your child about his or her teacher and the other kids in the class and ask questions. For example, ask about games they play at recess, who they sit with at lunch or a favorite activity the teacher promotes. Taking an interest in your child’s peer groups encourages social development.
Talk about feelings
As you talk about feelings with your child, it normalizes the fearful transition experience and reminds them that you care. Let your child know it is normal to experience many different emotions at the same time, ranging from excitement to fear.
For younger children, consider purchasing feeling flash cards. These cards make talking about feelings fun and can be purchased at a number of online retailers. Check out our favorite, Jim Borgman's Feelings Playing Cards, on Amazon.com.
Reassure your child that at the end of the school day you will see each other again. Remind them it is very normal to feel nervous and it is OK to feel scared. If they have experienced another transition in school, ask them what could have made that transition easier.
Take care of yourself
Kids pick up on the stress that parents experience. Make sure that you are meeting your own basic needs and caring for yourself during this stressful time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that pausing for a couple deep breaths can help you refocus.
Nicholas Call LCSW is the owner and therapist at Tree of Life Counseling Center in North Ogden, Utah. He holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Utah and a Bachelors Degrees from Weber State University.