In most stores, beach towels and sunscreen are being replaced with backpacks and notebooks. Somehow, the first day of school is just around the corner! Many kids are energized by the possibility of back to school, but others are anxious about the unknown. A new teacher, a new school, or going to school for the first time can shake even the most resilient child.
“One of our biggest fears as humans is the unknown, and starting a new school year involves a lot of unknowns,” says Laura Markham, Ph.D. She is a clinical psychologist and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting.
There are steps you can take to make back to school easier. The school-based clinicians at Jefferson Center offered these tips to ease the transition.
- Say it’s Ok. Children with anxiety can experience nightmares or a change in sleeping habits. Some may become crabby or sad, asking many questions about school. Listen to your children; validate their feelings and reassure them that it’s ok to feel this way! Let them know that many other classmates of theirs are experiencing the same feelings.
- Shift your Schedule. Going from lazy mornings to a 6 a.m. wakeup call can be a bit much even for the cheeriest of morning people! Ease kids back into a school routine by phasing in an earlier bedtime and wake-up time. They may not be happy about it, but it will be much easier to implement now than the first day of school!
- Break the Ice. With new students, teachers and groups of friends that consistently change, kids may find themselves in a classroom where they don’t know anyone or they don’t have any friends. Try to find a class list in advance or ask other parents which teacher their child has and arrange time for the kids to play together. Have older kids? Use the terms “meet up” or “hang out.”
- Take Care. Sleeping enough, eating a healthy diet – especially a breakfast of balanced protein and carbohydrates – and getting plenty of exercise is imperative for brain function, mood, ability to sit still and pay attention in class.
- Relax! Yes, this tip is for the parents! Back to school can be a hectic time for you as well, and kids can often sense this. Taking time to relax and recharge your own batteries is just as important for you as it is your kids.
Bonus Tip: Know what’s available at your child’s school for help! Schools have counselors and Jefferson Center has a school-based program where clinicians are on-site at many area schools to support kids and families with anxiety or other mental health challenges.
Start incorporating these tips into your daily lives today to make that first day back to school more manageable for everyone!
Shannon Gwash is the Director of Wellness Services for Jefferson Center and is also a Certified Mayo Clinic Wellness Coach. She earned her MS from the University of Denver in Strategic Health Communications/Behavior Change. She has nearly 10 years of experience in the communication world and nearly three in parenting … which clearly makes her an expert there. To stay sane, she runs around Sloan’s Lake, hikes with her daughter, enjoys outdoor concerts and reads nerdy books.