It’s that time of year again, the season where carefree days of summer give way to fall, which inevitably means a new school year. This transition is often greeted with a mixed bag of emotions for our kids as they head to new classrooms, teachers, grades, and even schools. Kids of all ages, ranging from our littlest ones beginning kindergarten to our seniors facing their last days in high school, might fear the unknown.
As stores line their shelves with notebooks, pencils, and crayons, it’s very common and normal for our sons and daughters to begin feeling a little apprehensive about the upcoming school year and the changes that lay ahead. These feelings are often the driving force behind back to school stress. Fortunately, our kids possess the capability to cope with change if we address their feelings of nervousness or anxiety as school begins. With a little work, our kids can build resilience, learn to manage their emotions, and set themselves up for success in the upcoming year.
So, just how can we help kids manage back to school stress? Scroll through the following 10 ideas to derail school-related stress before the first bell rings:
Begin a conversation. One of the best things we can do to help our children is to listen, talk about what stress is, and ways to handle these feelings. If kids are complaining about struggling with classwork or wanting to avoid school, try to find the real problem. Is it a bully issue? Do they have problems with their teacher? By listening and talking, we can address most stressors facing our kids and reassure them that everything will work out.
Get a routine. Prepare a child for school by easing into school sleep routines and wake-up times. We can also organize their clothes, backpacks, binders, lunchboxes, and other necessities at home to help make our mornings go more smoothly. If a child feels prepared, they may feel less anxiety about going back to school.
Visit the school, find classrooms, and practice locker combinations. This tactic is especially beneficial if a child is entering a new environment like middle or high school. By walking through the building, visiting their locker, and finding their classrooms we can alleviate a lot of unneeded stress.
Be empathetic. Change can be scary, but it is also an exciting time. Make sure our children know we are aware of their feelings and that we will be there to support them. It’s normal to be nervous, but we need to show them that even though the new school year is different, it isn’t necessarily going to be bad. We should help encourage them to face their fears with reassurance and words of encouragement.
Lighten the mood. When a person feels stressed, it is easy to focus on all the negatives around them. Help distract children and keep the environment light by telling jokes, sharing silly stories, exercising, learning yoga, or playing games. Find healthy outlets for stress to help children learn to relax and overcome their anxiety.
Make sure they are getting enough sleep. It’s no secret that children need sleep, but many of our kids today aren’t getting adequate amounts of shut eye. Recently, the National Sleep Foundation changed the recommended amount of sleep for all age groups. Now, they are saying kids may need up to 12 hours of slumber! This is important, because sleep plays a role in how our brains function and greatly improves a child’s performance which can reduce back to school stress.
Use the power of story to positively portray school situations. For younger students, read aloud books that address new schools, going to kindergarten, making friends, handling bullies, riding the bus, and more. By exposing children to different scenarios and modeling appropriate ways to interact, we can empower them.
Develop a homework contract. Avoid arguments, tears, and late nights by sitting down as a family to outline all homework expectations. Make sure to include when a child is expected to complete assignments, the role a parent will play, and the consequences of not keeping up with school work.
Create a new tradition. Every year, without fail, the night before school starts our family serves homemade chocolate pudding for dessert. The children love this and anxiously look forward to the treat. Find something that works for your family to celebrate the new beginning.
Limit technology. Technology does have a time and place, but it is essential we encourage kids to take a media break to prevent technology from overtaking “physical activity, sleep time, and other behaviors essential to health”. We can encourage unstructured play, down time, and offer a quiet place for reflection.
How do you help kids manage back to school stress?