A note from Abby: My new associate Briana, shares her top tips for preparing kids (and parents) for the start of the school year. Briana Kilian, MFTI, is a registered Marriage and Family Therapy Intern (IMF81364), and offers low-cost individual, couples’ and family therapy for children, teens, and adults. Please read her first post here!
The start of a new school year is fast approaching and with that can come a variety of emotions from children and parents! Some kids can’t wait for the first of school to see old friends and make new ones; while others may cry and throw tantrums. Some parents can’t wait for a little extra free time and more structure in their days, while others are already missing summer. If you fall into one of these categories, or maybe even somewhere in the middle, don’t worry-you are not alone!
While new experiences can be exciting for kids and adults, even the most secure children and parents can get nervous and anxious about change. Here are a few ways to prepare both physically and emotionally and hopefully make this transition a little bit easier.
Get kids involved in back to school preparation
- Let them choose their own school supplies and help pack them in their backpack.
- Have children help you pick out their first day of school outfit or, if your child wears a uniform, let them choose their shoes and hairstyle. Making sure they feel confident and comfortable makes a huge difference!
- Let them pack their lunch and snacks with you. Something as simple as a sandwich shaped like a star or good old-fashioned “ants on a log” can make eating and preparing fun.
Get kids excited about the next grade or beginning school
- For younger children, getting some books that relate to the upcoming grade they are entering can facilitate any questions or concerns they may have. Some good choices include books by Lauren Child, Stan and Jan Berenstein, Julie Dannenberg, and Neil Gaiman.
- Plan a play date with old and/or new friends prior to school starting. Excitement can replace fear if you child knows that they will get to see their friends even more!
Talk about and try to alleviate as many unknowns as possible
- Encourage questions from them on what they think school will be like. It’s important to remind and reassure them that you are supportive of their concerns.
- Talk about what they can expect on a typical day; dropping off, snack/lunch time and recess, nap time, reading, singing, art, picking up, etc. Giving your child a “mental movie” about the day can ease a lot of anxiety that comes from the unknown.
- If it’s a new school, try and visit before the first day of school and explore the grounds. Showing your child where the classroom, bathroom, cafeteria, etc. is can create some comfort once the first day comes.
- If offered, attend an orientation or meet and greet with the teacher and the class. This can help ease those first day jitters of not knowing anyone.
And don’t forget to…
- Get into a routine of saying goodbye. A regular routine of a kiss and hug, and something as easy as “give a hug ladybug” or “out the door dinosaur” can be a reminder to your child that its time to go and can also reassure them that you will return later.
- A note or family photo tucked into a special pocket of their backpack can also create safety when you are apart
- Try and make sure you are early when picking up your child that first week of school. This can create comfort and help to lesson any panic they may have of being there alone.
- Try and plan something special for your child to celebrate that first week. Taking them to their favorite restaurant, cooking their favorite food, or family movie night are all great ways to celebrate their success of completing their first week.
The first weeks back to school can bring up a wide range of emotions for both parents and children. Uncharacteristic meltdowns and aches and pains from children are to be expected. Remember children can have a difficult time expressing their emotions, whether positive or negative, so it’s important to have patience and understanding. Change can be difficult for all us but by supporting and encouraging children through these stressful times, we can help to make it a positive and exciting experience!
You can contact Briana Kilian, Marriage and Family Therapy Intern, IMF 81364, directly at 619-356-0726, by email at Briana@AbigailBurdLCSW.com, or THROUGH ME.