Back to School Breeze

This article was published in the fall issue of Boulder County Kids. I want to share it with you here, as well, to give families some tips and strategies for starting this school year off with lots of confidence and smiles. Enjoy!!!

Another summer vacation is coming to an end and we start thinking about the school year ahead. Whether this will be your child’s first time stepping into a classroom or he/she is a seasoned veteran of scholastic endeavors, this transition marks one of the major events of your child’s year. And, as with any major transition, there will naturally be emotions that come up as kids adjust to a new situation. Think about it, new teacher, new classroom, different schedule, different classmates or even an entirely new set of peers… that’s enough to elicit an emotional response from even the most even-keeled kiddo. So, as you’re starting to think about back to school shopping and school supplies, take some time to help your child prepare emotionally for the transition into the new school year. It will help your little one’s confidence, resilience and their social and academic performance. Here are some useful tips to help you and your family get ready for fall.

1. Communication is Key: Good communication is honest and consistent. The purpose is to hear and understand your child. Rather than give advice or impose ideas on how they “should” feel, listen more. Sometimes, when parents let go of the need to problem solve or give advice they actually feel liberated, finding the space to be positive, empathic and connected to their children.
Also, keep in mind that logical responses and learning don’t happen when kids are overwhelmed or upset. Rather, give children room to express their feelings in healthy ways. Teaching moments can happen when they are calm and happy again.

2. Kids Need Predictability:
While they may often speak and act in ways that surprise us, children thrive off of consistency and predictability. Introduce a regular, frequent conversation about what it will be like to be back in school again. Initiate the school-year routines several weeks before the big first day. Modify sleep and eating schedules so that the transition doesn’t come as a shock to their systems. Have a calendar or schedule clearly visible with important back-to-school related dates—and let them help you create and add to it. The more children know what to expect, the easier it will be for them to smoothly fall back into the routine.

3. Skills to Cope: Children look to the adults in their lives as models for how to deal with difficult situations. Model kindness, calm and thoughtful decision-making. Talk about the feelings that may come up when you enter a new situation and you don’t know how it’s going to go (there are no wrong answers here). Share examples and experiences you’ve each had when you started something new and unfamiliar. Actively help children develop coping skills by letting them express their feelings through words, art, physical activity and music. Give them resources for coping when things get stressful or difficult at school (i.e. talk to a teacher, walk away…)

4. Time to be free:
With school, sports, music and a range of extracurriculars, kids’ schedules tend to fill up fast. Be sure and arrange time each day and especially on weekends for kids to have free, unstructured playtime. Turn off the television and let their imaginations run wild. Pretend play is an essential part of helping children learn to self-regulate, to create and follow rules and to develop their imagination. Use this as an opportunity to bond with your kiddo and to get in touch with your own inner child, embracing the creativity and magic of childhood.

5. Be involved: Find ways to participate in your child’s school experience. Talk to the teacher about your son or daughter’s social and emotional experience. Check to make sure he/she is regularly eating meals and drinking water. Volunteer in the classroom. Attend events and school association meetings. Get to know other parents and arrange family play-dates. Your involvement will be something your kids will always remember and appreciate.

A bit of forethought and a few simple steps are bound to make the coming school year a breeze for you and, most importantly, for your child.