As we gear up for fall and prepare for a new school year, parents and children alike face many emotions about going back to school. It is an exciting time and sometimes an equally scary one for children who feel anxiety about the unknown. Toronto Mom Now is here to help you impliment some effective strategies to reduce your children’s anxiety and be ready to return to school without a hitch.
1. The Night Before Preparations
In school, work and everyday life one of the main keys to success is, preparation, preparation and while this sounds simple in theory, the challenge is often implementing these strategies.
The best way to prepare for school is to initiate a ‘night before’ routine with your children. If you have children starting kindergarden most of the work will be up to you but it will set a good precedent and grade school children can do much of the night before preparations themselves.
What do we suggest you get ready the night before school? The number one thing we recommend is to have your kids pick their outfit the night before, this can be especially help and time saving for indecisive children because it often stresses them out to make their final outfit decision the morning of, when they know time is limited.
Some other helpful preparations include pre making lunch (and refrigerating if necessary), doing a homework check, a school agenda or calendar check to see if any ‘special’ items need to be packed and of course, packing back packs.
2. AM Followthrough
Even after preparing for school the night before, many children wake up tired or nervous and find it difficult to follow through with their morning routine. As parents it is important to guide them through this process so they can get into the swing of their school mornings without stress.
When establising a morning routine, we suggest you go with the flow and take cues from what you see your kids do naturally; for instance my eldest forgets to eat but always remembers to get up, head to the bathroom and do her hair; rather than make her change this we made it her first ‘task’ of the day.
What do we recommend? Generally morning routines include; bathroom, breakfast, getting dressed, packing lunch and heading out the door. If you are not home in the morning you can have your child’s care giver follow through with the routine. For nervous kids we also recommend posting a weekly meal plan to take the guess work out of ‘what to eat.’
If you have constant outfit changers, you may want to let them wait until they’ve completed their other morning tasks before getting dressed so that there simply isn’t time to change their mind about what to wear before heading off to school.
3. Know Your Team
Preparing for school in advance and establishing effective morning routines can help children feel ready for school but what happens once they get there? What to they do when anxiety gets to them in class or on the playground and how can we help? There are many things we can do to reassure our kids even when we’re not there and one very helpful tool is to make sure they know who’s on their support team.
How do we establish a support team? It’s easier than you think. Think about who your children’s biggest advocates are, is it you, your childcare worker, other family or friends? Whoever acts as your kids core support system make up your ‘team.’ Letting your children know who’s on their team will offer them much needed reassurance when they feel unsure about something at school.
The school will always say that teachers and the school administration are part of your children’s core team and many times this is true but just as often children may not feel comfortable to talk to their teachers about their feelings so make sure they know who they can talk to about anything at any time, without harsh judgement.
4. Stay Connected To Your Network
Once you’ve communicated to your kids who their team is, it can also be helpful to let them know how to get ahold of those people and what steps to take if they can’t reach a team member when they need to.
Make a point to touch base with your support network to let them know you’ve told your kids they can reach out to them, this may include people outside of your core team, such as other parents, teachers and even the school principal.
When there’s a problem at school like bullying, encourage your children to overcome their fear of sharing their feelings with their teachers and encourage them to go right to school staff for assistance. If fear is a factor, let them know they can only overcome bad situations with communication and if they don’t want to talk to school staff have them ask to call you (or a team member) from the main office.
Do you use any of these strategies to help your kids beat the back-to-school blues? What other tips or techniques do you use?