It’s almost back-to-school time for kids around the country. For many students starting school for the first time or attending a new school, the transition isn’t always an easy one. How can you make it easier on your kids?
Vinay Saranga M.D. is a child psychiatrist and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry (www.sarangapsychiatry.com)
Dr. Saranga offers these tips:
- Ask your young kids how they are feeling: For children going to school for the first time or those starting at a new school, the transition can be difficult and filled with anxiety. Sometimes kids won’t express their emotions so as parents, you need to ask them what they are feeling. Help them feel reassured and know that having mixed emotions of happiness, fear and even confusion are all normal and that many of the other kids are feeling that way too.
- Help your kids get excited about school: Kids will model the behavior of their parents. When you talk about school, be upbeat and excited about it. Share some of the better memories you have from your school days or funny stories that portray school as a positive experience. Be real with your kids and let them know you were nervous in the beginning, but talk about all the good things like making new friends, learning to read and more.
- Attend your school’s open house: Going to your classroom a few days before school starts is about much more than just meeting your teacher. It’s a chance to help eliminate the unknown for your children. When they can see the classroom, meet their classmates and see where they are spending their days, it will help reduce their anxiety on the first day because it will already be a little bit familiar.
- Start learning before school starts: Parents should sit with their kids and encourage them to get back into reading, writing and math studies before the first day. You can even pullout some of their work from last year and review it or download learning apps to make it more fun for your kids. This helps ready the mind for learning and begins to transition your children from summer play mode to learning mode so it’s not a big shock on day one.
- Start adjusting schedules early on: Chances are, your kids probably stayed up a little later and slept in over the summer. Don’t wait until the first day of school to wake them up early. Start having them go to bed a little earlier now and waking up a little earlier in the morning so it’s not so difficult come the first day of school. In addition, most kids do better with structure, so map out the before and after school schedules so your kids know what to expect.
- Get school shopping done early: Rushing around at the last minute to get all those school supplies just adds to your children’s stress and anxiety. Start back-to-school shopping now. In fact, involve your kids and let them pick out their own backpacks, lunchboxes and notebooks in their favorite colors and patterns. Let them pick a new outfit for the first day of school that makes them feel confident and comfortable.
- Find the right balance of goals for the new school year: Parents should work with their kids to set goals for the new school year. Make sure you help your kids set realistic goals that are on their learning level. Straight A’s, for example, is a great goal to have, but it might be unrealistic for some kids. If the goal is too far out of reach, your child will feel overwhelmed and defeated. If it’s too easy, he or she will become bored.
- Teach your kids age appropriate realities: As your children get a little older and further along in school, they’re going to have to learn some lessons about life. As parents, you can help make the transition easier for your children by sharing advice around some of these topics such as bullying and being teased, life not always being fair, the importance of sharing, saying no to drugs, learning from their failures, helping others, inclusion and equality, how to get along with difficult people, letting their voice be heard and more.
- Give your kids something to look forward to: Like adults, children need something to look forward to. It helps keep them motivated. Plan a trip or something fun for Winter break, Spring break or next Summer. When they are feeling down, remind them that this next big great adventure is right around the corner.