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The start of a new school year can be both an exciting and intimidating time for your student. Remember how you felt when you moved to a new city for the first time? When you started that new job? No matter the size of the transition, it can be a challenge for many of us. And for your children, this transition may be one of the toughest points of their life so far.

Whether your kid is starting at a new school or just getting ready to start a new grade in a new classroom, patience and understanding can go a long way in helping them through this transition. As a parent, it’s essential to be there to help your child work through their feelings around school starting. Here are three ways you can help make the back-to-school transition a smooth one.

Check-in with your student ahead of time

As the summer is winding down, start talking to your child about school in small doses. Pepper in questions throughout the week to find out what they’re excited about and what they’re nervous about. Through these conversations, you will be able to understand what your child is feeling and help them work through it.

“It is important to validate the child and their feelings,” said Caitlin Haden LSW, School-Based Clinician at the Jefferson Center. “Starting a new year can bring up overwhelming feelings, and validating that it can be hard and it’s an adjustment can help the child feel ready for the new year.” 

When having these conversations with your kids, think back to when you were in school and share your stories that will shine a positive light on what they can look forward to. And to help your child continue to be successful, don’t make this a one-time conversation.

“Throughout the year, different assignments or activities can lead to similar feelings of anxiety,” said Haden. “Continue to validate and share times that you felt the same way and what you did to overcome.”

Strive to create a consistent schedule

With all of the changes going on in your child’s external environment, creating a stable, consistent schedule in their home environment can give them comfort through the ups and downs.

“My advice is for parent to develop and maintain a clear, consistent routine at home to decrease anxiety about transitions,” said Tanya, LCSW, a School-Based Clinician at Jefferson Center.  “A healthy routine at home would include time for play, time for homework, dinner, and a nighttime routine of hygiene focused tasks (bath, shower, brush teeth, brush hair, etc.) to support a bedtime that allows for at least eight hours of sleep.”

This type of consistency will look a little different for each age group but should include all of these elements. When your child has a tough day at school, knowing what they can expect and look forward to when they get home can help offer a sense of relief and stability.

Get your child the mental health support they need

If you are regularly checking in with your child, and you feel concerned that they may be dealing with a mental health issue like depression or anxiety, there are support systems in place to help you both work through it. If your child has expressed that they don’t “feel right” and are not sure why, it’s important for you to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and know when to seek help from a counselor who can give you the tools to help your child feel better.

Whether or not you have immediate concerns about your child’s health and wellbeing, the following resources can be helpful, whether preventative or necessary.

Complete a screening test.

Consider taking the Parent Test from Mental Health America at mhascreening.org to check symptoms that you are witnessing. The Parent Test is for parents of young people to determine if their child’s emotions, attention, or behaviors might be signs of a problem.

Seek out counseling support.

Many schools have counseling systems in place to offer on-site support for students and their family members. Give your school a call to see what they have available, and what their recommendations would be based on your needs.

Take a Youth Mental Health First Aid class.

Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed for adults who regularly interact with young people (ages 12-18). The course introduces the unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents and builds an understanding of the importance of early intervention. For a list of current classes, visit www.jcmh.org/mhfa.

Your child is in for exciting experiences as they take on new adventures each year of school. Understand that while you play a significant role in their development, there are many support systems in place to help you in this challenge.

Remember that while your child is experiencing change, and in need of your support, your own health and wellbeing is as important. Taking care of yourself, and being aware of your emotions, is vital to be able to show up for loved ones.

If you need support, call 303-425-0300 or visit www.jcmh.org to find out how Jefferson Center can support you and your family.