- 4 mins
Routines are the Calm Within the Back-to-School Storm
The start of a new school year is exciting, but can also be a little nerve-wracking. Although our children might not always be able to identify what they are feeling as anxiety, they might express it in different ways—perhaps becoming overly excited or impulsive as the start of school draws closer. Parents can also feel the tension rising as a new school year approaches. This heightened sense of anticipation has a way of spreading throughout the family unit quite rapidly if we are not managing these anxieties.
One of the best ways to reduce stress is to be organized. Before the school year starts, work with your child to help them create a study schedule and a plan for their week—prioritizing and organizing their daily tasks and activities. This will give them a sense of autonomy and control over what they want to spend energy on, and help them stay on top of their workload.
It’s important to set realistic goals for the new school year. If your child struggles in a particular subject, don’t expect them to get straight A’s. Help them identify areas they need to improve in and set achievable goals. I have seen what a difference interest-based activities make in a child’s life. If motivated to learn and participate, their attention span might pleasantly surprise you. Understandably, this enthusiasm won’t be the case for all subjects, but perhaps providing reasons why they need to achieve satisfactory goals in math, should they want to become a veterinarian, would suffice.
Having a positive mindset is crucial for managing stress. Encourage your child to think positive thoughts and focus on the things they’re looking forward to about the new school year. We always want to validate our children’s emotions and feelings and provide them space to feel comfortable sharing them. Perhaps bringing in a “journal of my day” could help your child explain what happened during the day, and you can help them cope with stressful situations or social settings. This could lead to an opportunity to focus on the positive aspects of managing these situations or friends, and then to explore what they can do or think of. When I conduct therapy sessions with children, I teach them about the power of choice. If they choose to let a bully make them feel sad, for example, they are in control of that choice. But if they decide to deal with the situation, tell a parent or teacher and find a way to soothe their emotions, they choose to take action and control the situation positively.
Make sure your child has everything they need for the first day of school. This includes a backpack, school supplies, and a change of clothes in case of spills or accidents. Your child can also help pack their backpack and think of “if (situation), then (solution)” ideas. For example, I can take shorts with me to avoid getting too hot if it’s warm. If I like a specific juice, I can take two if I get thirsty throughout the day.
It’s important to stay healthy both physically and mentally. Help your child eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep. Encourage them to exercise and take breaks when they feel overwhelmed. Mindfulness is always a good idea. Perry-Parrish et al. (2016) found mindfulness practices improve self-regulation, particularly in response to stress in children and adolescents. Moshi has some excellent meditations and stories that could help the entire family stay grounded and present at the moment. Click here to gain access to their meditation playlist for the families on their YouTube channel.
Perry-Parrish, C., Copeland-Linder, N., Webb, L., & Sibinga, E. M. (2016). Mindfulness-based approaches for children and youth. Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care 46(6), 172–178.