For children and parents alike, back to school can be both exciting and stressful. Transitions are a challenge for everyone. The individuals at NASP (The National Association of School Psychologists) have a a resources section that offers some great tips for parents and students to transition back to the more scheduled, busy days of the school year.
In the article “Back-to-School Transitions” they outline tips for the weeks leading up to the start of the school year and the first few weeks back into the new routine. There are the practical suggestions for parents and students. Parents should help their children designate and clear a spot for homework. While older children can work on a clean surface in their room, younger children should work in an area close by to their parents or caregivers to receive the maximum support and help with homework. They are just getting into the “homework scene” and need such support to facilitate success. Another suggestion includes designating a spot for bags, lunch boxes, and notifications from the school to promote ease, accessibility, organization (and may I add parental sanity). The writers also suggest making a few meals ahead of time and having them on hand for the first week of school, as everyone transitions to the stricter schedule and responsibilities of the school year, during the rush hours after school known as: homework; dinner preparation and dinner; and more homework, activities, or family responsibilities.
Some of the other suggestions for the first week of school include: having parents clear their own schedules the first week of school to assist their child’s acclimation; making lunches the night before to beat the morning chaos; leaving plenty of extra time to get ready; eat; and get to school; reviewing your child’s textbooks and agendas, and conveying positive and enthusiastic support for what they are learning, as it sets the tone for the year; and sending a note to your child’s teacher that establishes your interests and desire to be good partners for the year.
The authors have specific suggestions for helping children deal with anxiety and stress in school. For starters, remind them that this is perfectly normal. They then talk about modeling optimism and calm confidence for your child when it comes to school. By modeling such behavior, you give them an example to imitate. If there was problematic behavior last year, in terms of bullying or other situations that were emotionally charged for your child, make sure they were properly dealt with by all. That said, reinforce their coping strategies by role-playing or offering them some suggestions, with what to do in a tough situation –be it making friends, peer pressure, bullying, or if they need help in class. Other suggestions include being a presence in the classroom or school when volunteers are needed and knowing when to seek additional professional help when needed, if stress seems extreme, or other behavioral issues arise.
The last area they touch on warrants a standalone discussion. They advice against overdoing extracurricular activities. While one or two activities can be a socially and personally enriching experience for the child and family, more than that can overburden and stress the child and family. Often times for these activities directly compete with school work and familial needs. Choosing wisely is sage advice…. As our children return to the classroom, a hearty good luck and best wishes for a great school year!