Jitters, excitement, relief and a sense of being utterly overwhelmed – the phrase “back to school” brings an array of emotions for parents and children alike.
Whether your child is eager or nervous, helping him or her feel calm is one of the greatest gifts you can provide. No doubt you have tried and true strategies that include shopping for supplies, choosing a “first day of school” outfit, meeting your child’s teacher and more. Here are three more tips to consider as you prepare your child to go back to school.
1. Set Expectations. Children can easily be overwhelmed by the new and unknown. The day before school begins, talk with your child about what to expect, and break your “to do” list into small chunks. Together, choose your child’s clothes for the next day and lay them out. Decide on bedtime and what time you’ll wake him up in the morning. Is his backpack ready to go? What will he have for breakfast? What time will you leave for school? Is there something you’re forgetting that your child wants to be sure to do? Let your child help you make a schedule that you can post in the kitchen or in his room. Make an event out of creating the schedule! Decorate it and invite your child to post it in a prominent place where he’ll be eager to look at it. Making a visual takes the guess work out of what needs to be done and can help the morning feel less rushed and more enjoyable for you and your child.
2. Stay Up Beat. Find plenty of reasons to laugh on the way to school! Laughing creates endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good hormones. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain and anxiety. If your child is reluctant to let you leave once you drop her off, know she will be OKAY. Hug her, smile, assure her it will be a wonderful day and you can’t wait to hear about it when she comes home – and then leave. As hard as it may be for you to go, the sooner your child is on her own, the sooner she’ll be able to be enveloped in the warm welcome of her teacher and the classroom setting.
3. Make Time to Debrief. Some children settle into the school routine quickly while others take more time to feel comfortable. Make time to talk with your child each day after school. Ask opened-ended questions such as:
a. What was your favorite part of the day today?
b. What was the worst part of the day?
c. Tell me about your friends – who did you play with at recess?
d. What is one activity you did today?
Listen attentively to your child’s answers. Listen to what he or she is telling you, and what he is not telling you. “Listen” to his body language too. Understanding how he feels about school will help you ensure he is happy and feeling secure in his surroundings as quickly as possible.
School, particularly in the younger years, is usually fun for children. Each school year marks a new beginning filled with new opportunities. School is place where they share space and experiences with peers and learn in leaps and bounds. The more we can support them in feeling accepted and safe in their new classroom environment, the more everyone will feel calm and content with the new beginning ahead!
Article written by Mary Ostrowski