Written by: Jerri Green, LPC
The beginning of the school year can produce a variety of feelings for children, preteens, teenagers and parents. For many, there is a combination of excitement and anxiety, about the start of a new year; as well as sadness that summer has come to an end. For parents, both positive and negative feelings may emerge with memories of their own school experiences. Here are a few tips to help parents and children start the school year with a positive attitude:
1. Provide a consistent routine for mornings, after school, and bedtime. This should include allowing time for breakfast, after school snacks, reading and homework time and waking up and going to bed at the same times every day. Children of all ages thrive on routine, so doing these things in the same order every day gives children a feeling of security and stability.
2. Give lots of hugs and provide opportunities to talk about both the positive and negative experiences of the school day. Ask open-ended and specific questions such as “what did you learn about in math class?” or “who did you play with on the playground?” or “what was your favorite/least favorite part of the day?”
3. Give lots of encouragement about their schoolwork. Remind them that feeling challenged is part of learning and help them feel excited about learning new concepts.
4. Encourage them to feel assertive and empowered. Allow them to talk about their feelings and needs with you and others. Show them that you understand how they feel (whether you agree or not). This will encourage them to talk to you if they are experiencing difficulties with peers, bullying, peer pressure, etc.
5. Listen for opportunities to talk about bullying. Bullying happens in many ways and intimidating behaviors often leave victims feeling ashamed and isolated. Help them feel comfortable talking with you or another adult if bullying occurs. Share some of your own experiences with bullying and how you felt.
6. Provide a nurturing environment with positive role models. Children often mirror the attitudes and values of their parents. Children whose parents take initiative to do good deeds will be leaders at school and learn values that are important in making and maintaining friendships.
7. Try to make time daily for exercise. Include the whole family: talk about your day on a family walk or ride bikes together. Exercise significantly reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, and contributes to a healthy self concept needed to feel confident and successful in school.