In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured our questions are just as important as our answers. – Fred Rogers
Over the last few days, I’ve gotten frantic calls from parents asking: What can you do in three or four weeks? Meaning they recognize that back to school is coming up fast, and their son or daughter is clearly not ready for the change, potential stress and new regimen that will arrive quickly. Of course, I listen to each parent’s unique situation, but I decided to provide a few tips for returning to school with less stress for parents and their children. They are:
Plan Ahead. The more a child has a “pre-paved path” for positive school experiences, friendships and outcomes the better back-to-school is. For example, there is an ice cream social at my local school and students (K-5) get to go and meet each other before school begins again. It is the little things like this that make a big difference. I genuinely believe every child needs at least one friend, and one activity they’re good at (from reading to soccer) so they can feel more comfortable starting the new school year.
Talk it Out. Yesterday, I asked my eleven-year-old client: “Are you looking forward to 6th grade?” She looked at me with big eyes. And I replied, “maybe a little nervous” and she agreed. We talked about when we do something for the first time it’s normal to feel uncomfortable, and a little nervous, but that doesn’t need to stop us. We discussed how she’ll change classes more, have lockers, and even participate in new after-school activities like Drama and Archery. I also shared what it was like when I was in 6th grade, which Rosie thought was completely hilarious – so infusing some lighter moments also helps lighten the emotional load.
Teach relaxation (or a coping skill). Every child needs some stress relieving techniques so they can let their emotions and discomfort out constructively, which may include breathing exercises, physical exercise like karate class, or learning to meditate such as a free audio from Headspace for Kids (https://www.headspace.com/meditation/kids). I’m particularly fond of breathing exercises whether it’s blowing out birthday candles to the “hot soup breath” to show (not tell) children they have the power to calm themselves.
One Last Tip
Summer may still be in full swing, but the time is certainly now to “pick one thing” that helps reduce your child’s stress, which they can use at home and during the school year. It may be journaling, deep breaths, saying a mantra, or learning how to talk things out with a friend or teacher when they’re feeling stressed or another big emotion. In my upcoming book, The Emotionally Healthy Child, I give plenty of examples of how to help children regain their balance and make smarter choices even when emotionally charged, but in this short article I wanted to share some quick tips so that August can be a fun, productive and positive month setting up the new school year for success, and less stress for everyone!