While the possibilities that lie ahead with new classrooms, new teachers and new friends are exciting, the transition from summer to school can be challenging for many children. The following tips can help:
1. Prepare for school routines early. Begin routines for going to bed, awakening and mealtimes before school starts, giving your kids’ bodies time to adjust.
2. Keep an optimistic tone. Hand in Hand Parenting (handinhandparenting.org) explains that children flourish with a tone of optimism.
3. Be sure your child has opportunity for exercise during or after the school day. Research shows a direct connection between exercise and mental health, and PE class may not be enough.
4. Find ways to make the unknown more familiar. If your child is going to a new school, schedule a visit during the week before school starts. Practice the route to school and/or the classroom. Go online to see pictures of the school and its staff and to explore activities that happen at the school.
5. Whether it’s a new school or a new classroom, try to meet with teachers, if only briefly, to make an early connection. Consider a proactive meeting with the school counselor.
6. Help your child connect with friends early. Social support can be a key to success.
7. Establish early that you will be monitoring your child’s use of social media. Kids have many more ways to stay connected than their parents’ generation. These connections can help your child develop friendships and have fun, but they can also be unsafe. It is important to know who your children are connecting with and to intervene when necessary.
8. Create routine opportunities to connect. Family meals create time together and the opportunity for sharing. Whether it’s breakfast or an evening meal, each family member can share a success and a challenge they’ve experienced or are anticipating. Drive time to and from school or bedtime might be other opportunities for connection.
9. Be present and mindful. When you see your child off to school or welcome them home, give them your full attention, be 100 percent present. Managing your own stress and regulating your responses to difficult situations will help your child learn to do the same.
10. If your child seems to be having a hard time, make yourself available, but don’t force conversation. Give your child a hug and let them know you are there if they need you. Do something you enjoy together and leave the door open to talk if they want.
11. If your child is showing signs of more serious mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, don’t be afraid to get help. Children may not tell you that they are struggling, so trust your own intuition, your own understanding of them. If you sense something is up, then there probably is. Approaching and offering support is key.