The first weeks of the school year are a time of both excitement and worry for many children. While some kids have been eager to reconnect with their friends and begin the new year, other children become increasingly anxious as the first day of school approaches and have a hard time adjusting to the changes. As parents, we can provide our children with the care and attention they need to feel both academically prepared and emotionally held during this time of transition. Here are some tips to support your child in the first weeks of the new school year.
- Support the transitions from home to school to home again. While the larger transition from summer break to the beginning of school can be a challenge, so can daily transitions from home to school and back again. Consider ways to support your child in making these daily transitions as smooth and efficient as possible. Help your child find a space in the house where they can keep all their school items when they come home for the day. This is special place where they can keep their backpack, lunch bag, school supplies, and more. Not only will this help them stay organized, but will also reduce the loss of important items. Help your child prepare for the next morning the evening before. This will cut down on morning anxiety, when children and parents often rush to make sure their child has everything they need.
- Agree on a time and space for doing homework. Children often need their parents’ encouragement to focus on their homework after the long day at school. Yet getting your child to sit and focus can quickly turn into a power struggle when there are not clear expectations. Work with your child to develop clear agreements regarding where and when homework will be completed. Maybe you and your child agree they need to finish their work before they can relax and watch a half-hour of television. Or perhaps your child will get a set amount of screen time when they get home, and then begin their homework. Whichever system works best for your family, be sure to involve your children in the decision making. They are much more likely to stick with the agreement if they feel as though had a role in developing the agreement.
- Monitor your child’s academic progress. Remember that homework time is also an opportunity for you to show your interest in your child’s work. Have regular conversations with your child about their academic successes and challenges. Celebrate their achievements and, if you notice your child needs additional support, reassure your child that you are there to support them and will get them the best help possible. If your child is struggling, get in touch with their teachers early in the year to ensure they receive the support they need.
- Make space for your child’s emotions. Supporting your child academically is essential, but your child’s emotional world also needs your attention and curiosity. The social and emotional dynamics of school are complex and challenging for many children. Find time each day to check in with how your child is feeling. Encourage your child to share about their relationships, as well as events that impacted them during the day. Some parents ask their kids to share one thing that went really well that day, and another thing they wished had gone better. By inviting them to share in this way, you are your child can together think, feel, and explore the fun and joyful experiences as well as their frustrations, worries, and disappointments. If your child is struggling with difficult emotions, you can help them put their feelings into words, so they can express emotions verbally rather than acting them out behaviorally at home or at school.
Transitioning through the beginning of the school year is challenging for children. But by developing shared agreements and expectations, and staying engaged in your child’s academic and emotional world, a child will feel held and contained. Your child will know and feel that you are keeping them in mind, holding them accountable, and are right by their side during the new year of school.
If you are seeking additional support to help your child manage emotional or academic stress, feel free to call the professionals at Parents Place.
Maneesh Saini, LMFT, is Senior Clinician at Parents Place, San Francisco. He provides consultation and therapy to families and children of all ages.