It’s that time of year again – the backpacks are packed with sharp pencils and fresh notebooks and families are preparing for the start of a new school year. While this can be an exciting time, it can also cause anxiety for some children and parents. In addition, it is a return to a stricter schedule for many families and the transition can be hard. The peaceful August evenings are now replaced with homework, back-to-school nights and other school related events. A slower pace in the morning now becomes a rush to get out the door for many. Starting the school year off in a positive way can be achieved by creating a plan that will work for your family.
5 Ways to Make the Transition Easier
Plan together for the transition: The transition back to school or work is a great time to evaluate what did and did not work for your family last year and plan to make positive changes. Involving everyone in the plan can help engage all in making it work. Ask for and value each person’s ideas and develop what works for your family. Create a “plan B” as well in case the first plan does not work.
Managing anxiety is a lifelong skill: Children may feel anxiety over the new school year. For some it might be due to a previous negative experience but for others it might be worry about the unknown especially if going to a new school. Many parents feel anxious as well. If so, take time to work through your own stress so you are not projecting it onto your child. This is a great time to teach children and teens how to work with these feelings and develop healthy coping skills that will help them throughout their lifetime. Techniques like deep breathing and guided imagery are readily available through age appropriate apps, books or classes and can help with racing minds. In addition, talking through fears and helping your child engage in a plan to ease concerns will help them feel in control. Resist the urge to rush in to fix the issue for them or minimize how they feel and instead help them think through ways to alleviate their fear. Brainstorm possible solutions with your child to engage them in developing creative ways to manage anxiety.
Develop a Communication Strategy: As school begins so do all the communications that come from school, teams, clubs and other activities in which your child participates. Create a family communication center with a calendar to record the events. Also decide who will attend each event ahead of time so each family member will be able to plan. While it would be ideal to be at all our child’s events sometimes it is not possible. Prioritize with your child what is most important to them. Also plan for carpools and sitters ahead of time so there isn’t last minute confusion which can cause stress. Don’t forget to schedule family time for fun. We can get so busy running from one event to the next that family members might not have the chance to spend quality time together to have fun and relax.
Create a Homework System: So often homework becomes a battle between parents and children. Develop a plan early in the year for when and where homework will be done. Allow children to help develop the plan and discuss the accountability guidelines. It’s important for children to gain age appropriate independence with school assignments but guidelines can help with a “plan B” for what will happen if assignments are not completed or turned in on time.
Let Go of the Small Stuff: As they say, don’t let perfection be the enemy of good enough. Decide what is most important for your family and prioritize it. Adequate sleep and downtime are essential for academic success so make sure overall wellbeing is a part of the plan.
Best wishes for a successful year!