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Back to school time means lots of changes, maybe some rough patches, trying to find our footing again after summer break. How can parents prepare and help their children?
Transitions can be hard! And even good transitions can create stress! Give your children and yourself grace – and time to prepare emotionally and physically. For most kids and parents, we eventually get into the swing of things within the first month or so.
And the good news is that children can adapt with a little time and encouragement and most teachers and school staff are super skilled at providing the elements that make them feel welcome, safe, and prepared for learning and socializing.
What can parents do to help their children in the mornings?
The best thing you can do to make your mornings go more smoothly is to prepare.
Prepare the Night Before by:
Laying Out School Clothes
Go to Bed on Time
The back-to-school transition can take a lot of energy out of your child. Don’t start them at a disadvantage. Make sure they go to sleep early to capture as much rest as they can each night.
And if your mornings feel rushed, the parent can get up first to dress and prepare and then be able to keep the child on a tight schedule.
"I know in my household the reduction in drama and stress is worth my husband and I getting up early. There is nothing crazier and more stressful than all of us running around fussy and tense. Getting up 20 minutes earlier may make all the difference in whether you and your child is emotionally and physically prepared to succeed in their day."
Parents should ensure that their children have a predictable routine for homework, family time, meals, bath, and sleep. Knowing what to expect and being rested and prepared can help all family members cope with the demands of school.
Being a parent can be a lot of fun. But our responsibilities as parents are to do the “hard things,” such as making and maintaining a schedule for our children and our family. This also means saying no to too much screen time, helping children to understand why too much screen time can be detrimental to them as well as why homework, brushing teeth, bathing, eating well, and getting good sleep is vital to their immediate and long-term success.
The best way to make sure our children take care of themselves now and as adults is for them to see us taking care of ourselves in the same ways that we want for them.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what is going on with kids, especially when they are pre-teens and teens. They don’t always like to talk or share information.
Connect with parents in your child’s peer group and with their teachers to ensure you have information about activities and any issues that may be surfacing with your child or their peer group.
As an adult, I I feel the same when I get home from work! Adults need time to decompress, so we should anticipate that our kids do, too. Kids are basically asked to hold in their emotions all day. I mean, we spend years helping them develop strategies to manage their emotions and behavior! But undoubtedly at least one thing happens every day that makes them feel worried, sad, or confused. And those big feelings will often come spilling out in the safety of their home. So, we can help them decompress by creating a predictable after school routine, including a snack and some downtime. And when your child does have a meltdown, stay calm so after they relax you can help them work through their thoughts and feelings.
The conversations get easier, too, once families get in the routine of talking
Face to face, dinner time, or car time can be great. Just make sure it's focused time where you are asking them questions, listening, sharing your thoughts and feelings. By teaching them how to communicate with you now, you are preparing them to be so much more comfortable in communicating with you later when the much harder topics arise.
"I ask my kids to tell me 2 Hots and a Not. They tell me two things that went right and one thing that wasn’t so hot. It’s just something I made up that we have done for years. It's predictable and we do it every day, so they are thinking all day about what they’re going to remember and tell me. Their friends even get in the car and love to chat away."
What if parents have concerns about how their child is doing, emotionally and academically. If something just doesn’t seem right, what is the first step they should take?
Parents with concerns can contact the mental health provider like CHE who can offer an evaluation of your child’s functioning and work with you to find strategies that will benefit your child and your family.
Dr. Dana Watson
VP of Quality Assurance, CHE Behavioral Health Services