How to Mentally and Emotionally Prepare Your Child for Back-to-School
By Tia V. Nagel, LMHC, School-Based Mental Health Therapist at Taylor Ranch Elementary School
Besides a basic list of school supplies, it’s important for parents to mentally and emotionally prepare children to go back to school! You might be rejoicing as you prepare your kids for a happy and successful school year. However, this can be both an exciting and stressful time for parents and kids alike as they anticipate the first ring of the school bell, especially with the added stress of increased Covid cases.
As parents, we do our best for our children and try to provide them with the necessary tools for success. However, sometimes we can easily overlook the non-tangible tools for their toolbox. Besides a last-minute trip to Walmart or Target, we need to mentally and emotionally prepare our children for the starting school year as well. You can start by creating a dialogue with your children. Talk about general interests, worries, and goals. Show them their opinions and feelings are valid and that you are actively listening. Here are some simple ways to promote conversations with kids:
- Ask open-ended questions
- Respond attentively
- Use nonjudgmental tone
- Create an environment promoting open dialogue
- Go out for a parent/child meal
- Walk around the neighborhood
The key is to engage in pleasant activities your and your child enjoy that can be achieved easily while maintaining a conversation. You will be amazed at what your child is willing to divulge when he or she feels you have a genuine appreciation for their thoughts and feelings.
Maintaining open conversations with your children can help to build their self-image and boost their self-confidence. Both of these aspects are crucial for mentally and emotionally preparing for school and coping with and overcoming obstacles they are likely to encounter during the school year such as:
- Difficulty with friendships
- Academic pressures
Some other important aspects to maintaining your child’s mental and emotional health involve appropriate nutrition, exercise, and adequate sleep. By cutting back on unnecessary junk foods, and making it routine to have an appropriately proportioned breakfast each morning, your child can maintain energy throughout the school day.
If possible, having your children involved in sports and/or extracurricular activities will also promote healthy blood circulation, create euphoric endorphins, and ultimately help in building self-esteem and self-confidence. Sleep is also crucial and can heavily impact how children react and handle different situations. Getting adequate amounts of sleep will also increase your overall mood and disposition with your children.
Just as each child is unique in personality, they will also have their own preferred ways to deal with the stresses at school. Talk to your children about their concerns and explore the ways they are currently dealing with them. Anxious symptoms and stress can manifest in many ways. Be observant of aspects such as:
- Frequent headaches
- Stomach/indigestion issues
- Abnormal isolation
- Disinterest in activities they previously enjoyed
- Significant changes in appetite
- Change in sleep pattern
If you notice any of these changes in your child, which is not otherwise explained by a medical condition, seek help from your child’s school or community agency like The Florida Center for Early Childhood for guidance.
Together we can ensure all children in the community are mentally and emotionally prepared for their first week of school!