The school hallways are filled with laughter and children. Classrooms are buzzing with kids and teachers talking and discussing. The warm summer days have come to an end and school is back in session. Although this is an exciting time in a child’s life, this is also a time that is surrounded by anxiety and nervous anticipation. I asked Michelle Suarez, MSED at Solutions Counseling what we can do to help ease that anxiety and nervousness. Here’s what she had to say:
As adults, I would like to invite you to think back to the start of school for you. It was exciting to see your friends, get new school supplies — maybe a new pair of shoes — but it was also a time for sadness that the freedoms of summer were over and a time for nerves to kick into high gear because of change. As parents or caregivers, there are several things that we can do to help your young child’s experience at school be a smooth one whether it be the first time or their fourth time.
1. Keep conversations about school short, simple and with a tone of excitement
Children are very perceptive. The way that you describe, explain and talk about school to your children will have a great impact on their experience. As genuinely as you possibly can, talk about school with enthusiasm and a sincere excitement. A caveat, however, is to be mindful of how much you talk about school. Sometimes, when you over-discuss something with your child, especially if they are younger, they may interpret this as something to be nervous about, especially if it is not a practice that you are both used to. Try to think about how you feel when someone tells you something over and over again. You may feel annoyed, anxious and wonder why this person is constantly badgering you. Keep these conversations short and simple but with a tone of excitement.
2. Focus on new routines at home
Beginning school, especially for the younger children, is a complete change of routine. Think about how you feel after you get home from a vacation. Most people will say they need a vacation from a vacation. Now imagine how your children will feel after the first few days, weeks and even months of school; their everyday routine of playing outside and waking up whenever they get up becomes much more predictable and rigorous. It’s the parent’s job to help their children establish new routines at home. This may include new bedtime routines, dinner routines, predictable time for homework and limited screen time. By encouraging these routines and boundaries, you are helping to ensure that your child receives enough sleep at night, along with helping them ease into their new school routine.
3. Learn to say “goodbye”
Another important aspect for young children is how you say good-bye. Sometimes this is the first time that you will be leaving your child so this goodbye may not only be hard for your child but it may also be hard for you. However, as the adult, I am inviting you to gather your emotions and hold it together as they say until you get back into your car or at home. By allowing your child to see you getting upset will only exacerbate your child’s potential fears and anxiety of school. Additionally, as much as you may want to prolong the process, keep it simple and predictable. Giving your child a big hug and kiss and telling them that you are excited to hear about their day is a good example of what to do when saying goodbye. By belaboring the process, it may seem like you are helping, but it can make the goodbye even harder. By creating this predictable routine of saying good-bye, you are helping your child to know what to except now and in the coming weeks.
Michelle Suarez, MSED is completing her practicum experience at Solutions Counseling Services in St. Michael, MN. Michelle has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master’s in Child and Parent Development from Bank Street College of Education in New York. She holds a certification in Play Therapy from St. Mary’s University and is currently completing a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at St. Mary’s University.
Craig Rens, MA, LMFT is the Director of Solutions Counseling. Solutions Counseling provides professional and confidential individual, couples, and family counseling for all ages. Learn more about Solutions at www.HelpWithSolutions.com.