My little buddy M is starting kindergarten at the Waldorf school next week and just got to show her new teacher all around her house. The teacher visits all the kindy kids, in their own kingdoms, before they head off to the big campus – something I’m sure most teachers would love to have the time and resources budgeted to be able to do.
Back to school, or off to school, can be stressful. Some thoughts on managing that came in the Sea to Sky Mental Health Partnerships most recent newsletter, penned by Judy Dunn MA, RCC, Squamish-based Child and Youth Mental Health Clinician.
You can download the entire newsletter at the end of the post.
Going to school is about changes from summertime and this is stressful, even if a child is looking forward to school.
For teens the biggest worries are about schoolwork, social issues, and appearance. On the internet there are all kinds of suggestions but the most common tips are:
SLEEP: Start a few weeks before school starts. Gradually shift bedtime and waking in the morning to earlier
times so that your child is getting enough sleep and waking more easily. For parents, give yourself an earlier start so
you can have a little quiet time each morning before the children get up to start their day.
ROUTINES: Some preparation can be done the night before to reduce morning pressures. Get children to help
you to make up charts or wall calendars that list what needs to be done each day (this can be in pictures for some
children). Include the steps to take each morning to get ready and out the door on time. Parents can put children in charge of most of the routine and some children like to check off each step or to have parents notice which steps the child does on their own. This helps to reduce the stress of rushing or of parents who find themselves frustrated or yelling at their children to hurry every school morning.
LISTEN: Help children with the words or ways to talk about what worries them about going to school. If a parent
understands what a child worries about, they can help their child to come up with ways solve the problem. If this is a new school or a new teacher, some children need a tour or to meet the teacher before the first day of school. Some children need to know in detail what are the school rules and some children just need a buddy who is a familiar person at school.
NUTRITION: Breakfast is the first meal of the day and it’s a good idea to add a protein or fruit to the carbohydrates that are common breakfast food. Lunches and snacks can also help to balance out nutrition for children who just don’t eat in the mornings. Picky eaters may eat better if they help to pack their own lunch or have some choices about what they pack.
DOWN TIME: Children can be overscheduled after a busy day in school and they may come home with lots of
homework. Help your child to fit in breaks too. Plan for one or two unscheduled times a week. Take time for family
time and exercise together or alone.
Parents need to take care of themselves too. It helps to compare notes with other parents about what works for their children or at their school. A confident parent can calmly remind a child of the successes they had last year and that this fall things could go even better.