Getting back into the “back-to-school” routine can be a difficult transition for kids and bring out a host worries from the anxiety closet along with the new school outfit.
Not only do bedtimes and mornings come earlier, but the transition to a new classroom, a new teacher, a new unit, or even a new school can bring up certain anxieties or regressions in children.
Here are 12 ways you can ease those back to school stressors and help make your child’s transition to the classroom easier; (note: if anxieties become especially intense, please consult a doctor or therapist).
1. TURN OFF THE NEWS: Turn off the news – keep the paper out of view, turn off the internet, the radio and tv news. Try not to talk about world events around your children for the next month or so, until they have settled in to their school year.
2. ROUTINES: Make your home inviting, safe, and comforting. Keep – or reinstate – your routines. Be at school pick up right on time. Keep bedtimes steadfast and a regular dinner hour. Be predictable; keep your word. Kids need to know they can rely on you right now.
3. CREATE A COZY HOME: Days are getting shorter and colder. Make your home warm and inviting by turning off the overhead lights and use ambient lighting. Light a candle at dinner time; add a flower in a vase. Set out throws and pillows. A stuffed animal. Keep it simple.
4. MAKE DINNER: Before the sports schedules get crazy, start having dinner as a family again. Don't talk about school or homework. Tell them something funny about your day. Keep it light. Laughter is good. Have a warm cooked meal. Put on some music. Family warmth is important now.
5. SIT AND STUDY: Sit with you student. Perhaps not at the table, but nearby. Maybe you have something to read, or sew -- pick up that old knitting, or grab a magazine. Try to stay off of your computer – that tends to zone us out. Be a light and nearby presence for your child. Be nearby and available, while also giving them space.
6. UNPLUG: Have a cut-off time when the Internet goes off for the evening and collect their computers at night and put them in YOUR closet. This will prevent kids from staying up too late texting friends or getting onto websites that are inappropriate for their age. In THE BIG DISCONNECT by Catherine Steiner-Adair, she advises that computers be used out in common areas and not be taken into bedrooms so that parents can oversee their use.
7. FEED YOUR CHILD WELL: Eggs or oatmeal or pancakes in the morning are a good sendoff; send a heartier meal for lunch, and then a sit down dinner; a warm, well-made meal can help soothe back-to-school jitters.
8. ENGAGE ALL THE SENSES: Go outside for a walk in nature; spend some time after school outside. Bring nature indoors; pick a flower or some branches, leaves, pine cones and put them in the kitchen or on the dining room table. Sometimes pleasant scents (such as baking cookies, peppermints, or citrus scents) can uplift mood.
9. CALL ME: Tell your child that they can call or text you any time during the day if they are worried or have a question. Let your kid know the schedule or plan for the day the night before and write it down on an index card. Write an encouraging note and include it in their lunch.
10. BELIEVE IN THEM: Tell them you believe in them and that you are there for them no matter what. Sometimes kids like hearing stories about when you were afraid or were starting something new as a kid, how you felt, and how your got through it, and how it worked out. Share those stories with them.
11. READ TO THEM AT BEDTIME: Now is also a good time to (re)start reading to your child at night. Pick out a story you have enjoyed together in the past.
12. REST: Take time for yourself. As a caregiver or parent, you are also going through this transition. Cut back on your workload if you can; say no to extracurricular activities for a time.
Good luck! New beginnings are exciting and challenging times. Face them with courage and compassion, for yourself and your child, and this too shall pass.