Back to School: 7 mental-health tips for kids (and yourself!)
Heading back to school is an exciting time for children and families, but changes in schools, teachers, friends and routines can also make it a stressful one.
Bob Beilke, Ph.D., a pediatric and clinical child psychologist who has worked for 21 years at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Center in Tacoma, Wash. offers the following advice for starting the school year off on the right foot.
Establish a routine early on
Prepare your child for a successful start back to school by getting them back on routines a week or two before school starts. Ensure your child develops adequate sleep patterns now.
Don’t wait until a day or two before school starts to begin sending children to bed at a typical school-year bed time and waking them up earlier in the morning. Incorporate some scheduling into the day (for example, regular quiet reading times) to start easing back into a more regimented schedule.
Talk to your children
It’s always good for parents to sit down and talk about what children might be worried or concerned about going back to school. But don’t forget to talk about the positives, too. What are children excited about and looking forward to this school year?
If children are nervous about a new school, classroom or teacher, take them to visit the school before the first day. Show them where they’ll be dropped off and picked up each day and talk through the school day with them. Older children may find it useful to get their schedule in advance.
Monitor social media
Keep an eye on older children’s social media accounts. What are you seeing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram? What are your children seeing that they might be nervous or anxious about? Restrict your teen from text messaging in bed after bedtime.
Foster positive friendships
For kids who are worried about friendships or loneliness, encourage them to reconnect with a friend before the start of school. Schedule a play date before school starts, and make plans to see each other at recess or lunch on the first day of school. Pre-load the start of the school year with positive relationships that will help buffer some of the less positive experiences.
Create homework strategies
For children who are not academically inclined, the onset of school may signal a time of increased stress and worry for both students and parents. Work with your student to develop a plan for getting homework done and assignments turned in on time. Make a plan to touch base with teachers regularly, even check your student’s backpack when they come home from school. Set an after-school routine: bathroom break, snack, and then homework before playtime.
Don’t stress, parents
Parents have their own set of worries. Talking to other parents can be helpful, as can getting as much information as you can. Review your student’s schedule. Set up a time to meet your child’s teacher or school principal and figure out a way to communicate that works well for both of you.
The bottom line: organization and communication with your child can help start the school year on the right foot both at school and at home.
This story is part of a series of "Back-to-School Tips" from the experts at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital & Health Center. Find more back-to-school tips and tricks in our online back-to-school center.
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