HANDLING THE MIXED EMOTIONS OF GOING BACK-TO-SCHOOL
Heading back to school after the long summer holidays can be an emotional rollercoaster for everyone in the house. When thinking about your children’s first day of school, it’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed. Kids (and indeed parents) often go back and forth between feelings of excitement and nervousness. So, working with your children to build resilience and manage their emotions can be beneficial for the psychological health of the whole family.
Here are a few strategies to help you deal with your children’s emotions:
1. Listen and talk to your children. In order to unload their emotional burden, your children need to share with you what is happening with them. So, several days before the first day of school, take the time to listen to what they have to say about going back to school. After they are done so, it might the opportunity to share with them some of your memories about your own first days of school. It will help your children normalize their emotions and feel they are not the only ones feeling this way.
2. Empathize with and support your children. Let your children know you are aware of and understand what they are going through. Make sure they know you are here to help them any way they need. Encourage your children to acknowledge and face their fears by validating how they feel.
3. Get involved in your children’ school life. Knowledge of the school and the community will better equip you to understand your children’s surroundings and the transition they are undergoing. Meeting members of your community and school will foster support for both you and your children. It will also show your children you are interested in their life at school and do your best to help them.
4. Practice the first day of school routine. Getting into a sleep routine before the first week of school will aide in easing the shock of waking up early. Organizing things at home — backpack, binder, lunchbox or cafeteria money — will help make the first morning go smoothly. Having healthy, yet kid-friendly lunches will help keep them energized throughout the day. Also, walking through the building and visiting your children’s locker and classroom will help ease anxiety of the unknown.
5. Get familiar with your neighborhood. If your children are starting a new school, their level of anxiety might be high as they are facing a lot of unknowns. In order to alleviate their stress, get to know the neighbors by walking around the block. Try to set up play dates, or if your children are older, find out where neighborhood kids might go to safely hang out, like the community pool, recreation center or park.
The end of summer and the beginning of a new school year can be a stressful time for parents and children. Fortunately, children are capable of coping with changes. As a parent, you can help them in this process by fostering resilience and encouraging them to share and express their emotions and feelings about returning to school.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.