Is your child ready to transition to school mode?
Ready or not, it’s time for school. As a parent, you may be jumping for joy or stressing over the details, but do you know how your children feel?
“Some children may not even be thinking about going back to school until the first day of classes, while others may have frequent anxiety about what school will be like,” says Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, a clinical psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill.
Regardless of their feelings toward the annual transition, Dr. Roberts recommends facilitating your child’s return to his or her school year habits at least a week in advance; for example, bedtime routines and meal schedules should be adjusted ahead of time so that it is not as difficult for your child when the year starts.
It is important to realize that the transition into the school year is a large adjustment and that it is alright for children to have mixed emotions about their return. Dr. Roberts encourages open discussions with your child no matter how they feel about their return to academics.
“Initiate a conversation about what your children liked about school in the past and what they are looking forward to in the upcoming year. This type of dialogue will remind them of some of the positives,” she says.
At the same time, if a parent is concerned that a child is anxious about school, Dr. Roberts recommends exploring that that, too.
“As adults, we often think we need to get the negative out of the way immediately, but it helps to discuss it. Being open will make it easier for your child to come to you with other issues.”
Bullied children may fear starting another school year.
“Parents need to send their children the message that they hear them, understand them and take the problem seriously,” Dr. Roberts says. “If the child’s bullying was dealt with in previous years, remind them that that something was done to fix the problem. If it was not dealt with successfully, reassure the child that it will be addressed immediately. Set up a meeting with the school principal, counselor or a teacher.”
For parents of children starting at a new school this fall or those who are anxious about school, Dr. Roberts suggests providing solutions in order to best help them prepare. “Discuss your child’s feelings and anxiety. Work together to come up with a plan for what they can do when various issues arise,” she says.
Children should also connect with and learn from one another; neighborhood kids or siblings offer strong insight into what your child can expect at school. “For some children, it may be highly beneficial to make a visit to the school. Scoping out the playground with younger children will make them feel more comfortable when they begin recess,” she says.
Dr. Roberts offers the following tips for a smooth transition:
- Discuss a part of the school day that your child is looking forward to (recess, gym, snack time, etc.) Reminding him or her that they enjoy this part of the day will give them something to look forward to.
- Continue a plan that worked in previous years, whether it is a weekly meeting with the counselor or a reward system set up for managing homework. “You’d rather set your child up for success than have to scramble later on when things aren’t working,” Dr. Roberts says.
- Find an extracurricular activity or club that your child enjoys. This will give him or her a connection to school and may improve their overall mental health and happiness.
- Be an ear; listen to your children.
- If your child is facing a difficult time at school, remind him or her that they are not alone. Help them figure out how to solve the problem.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As a parent of a child at any age, there is a support system in place that is able to help you help your children. Teachers, counselors and principals are all invested in your child’s success.
About the Author
Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is the public affairs coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.