Back to School Tips for Parents
In the Charlotte and surrounding areas, schools will be back in session soon. Back to school means tightening bed time schedules, arising earlier in the morning, attending open houses with teachers, shopping for back-to-school supplies, and dealing with increased anxiety. Along with the excitement of a new school year, meeting new teachers and making new friends students, teachers, and parents often experience increased anxiety. It is normal for kids to wonder what the new year will be like and what to expect. So, how can parents make the transition as smooth as possible for kids?
We can P.R.E.P.A.R.E.:
P: Parents, be PROACTIVE and not reactive
Begin the transition to earlier bedtimes and earlier wake times now, not the day before school. Plan meals for the first week of school and purchase all the ingredients. Consider crock-pot meals or easily prepared meals that can be put together the night before or within a few minutes when arriving after a long day. Plan to eat as a family – this may be the only few minutes your family connects all day. Remember to have cash on hand, if needed. Purchase lunch items for the entire week. Make lunches the night before school rather than in the morning. Catch up on all laundry caught up. Have school uniforms hanging in a specific place with all necessary items, like belts, shoes, etc.
R: Be a ROLE MODEL to your kids
If your anxiety is under control, their anxiety will be better controlled. According to Daily Mail, new research reports that back-to-school time is more stressful for parents than holidays (2017). Additionally, they report that 80% of parents claim they have serious anxiety about getting kids ready for the new school year (Sept. 2017). It is critical for kids to see parents using coping skills to manage anxiety. Parents may, work together to complete tasks, make games out of slow, deep breathing, eat regularly, listen to worshipful music, pray with your kids so they can witness you trusting God with the school year, and be gentle in your body language and tone of voice.
E: Encourage your child
Encourage your child to talk to you about his or her feelings. Remind them that some anxiety is perfectly normal. Set up a daily check-in time with them about school (anxietybc.com). Praise brave behavior. Be supportive but firm about the requirement of going to school. Focus on the positives. “Neurological research reveals that the acquisition of new skills and abilities gives our brain a similar sensation as the one we experience when we win money and receive rewards (Mizuno, Tanaka, Ishii, et. al., 2008 as citied in PsychologTtoday.com 8.12.2018). As parents, you have the potential to shift your students’ mindset to the benefits of school – field trips, athletics, socialization.
P: Problem Solve
Anxious kids are often poor problem solvers and doubt their abilities to solve problems (anxietybc.com). After finding out what worries your child, begin to create a plan with concrete solutions. Help your child see a situation through to the worst possible outcome. For example, What if I fail a test? (What is the worst thing that could happen? Re-take the test, get tutoring, re-take the class.) This will help them see the difference between real and imaginary situations. Then help them solve the problem of how not to fail a test (study, take notes, pay attention in class, meet with the teacher, get tutoring, etc.)
A: Alleviate Extras
Protect your time. It is a commodity that is taken for granted. This will be the last first day of this grade for your child. Make sure to eliminate all extra, unnecessary activities until school and family routines are established and working. Schedule tasks like grocery shopping, laundry, packing back packs, etc. Don’t try to cram these things in and then expect things to run smoothly. Plan to keep an open schedule the first evening, except to complete paperwork. Get it done the first night and turned back in, so you are confident the school has everything they need.
Establish a routine. Even young children can begin to learn to wake up to an alarm clock. Have set bedtimes and wake times. If you have a child that takes longer to get ready, make sure he has the extra time he need. Routines are hard to establish, but if parents are consistent with them, the routines will be blessings.
E: Expect Interruptions
Plan for and expect interruptions. The dog will get out of the house; a bus will be late; or someone will spill milk, etc., but if you plan for and expect interruptions, then surprises will not be the end of the world. If Mom plans to be ready 30 minutes before everyone else, she is prepared for the interruptions. This may not eliminate sleepiness for Mom, but it will allow for Mom to have the time to deal with potential unexpected chaos and keep her emotions in control.
anxietybc.com (2017). Coping with Back to School Anxiety. https://www.anxietybc.com.
anxietybc.com (2017). Helping Your Child Cope with Back-to-School Anxiety.
Dailymail.com (15 Sep 2017). Back-to-school stress: A whopping 80% of parents claim that getting kids ready for a new year of classes leaves them with serious anxiety – and they say shopping is the worst cause.
Psychologytoday.com (12. Aug. 18). How to Cure Back to School Anxiety for Parents and Kids.