Be sure that your child’s back to school will be a smooth ride
Why is Going Back-To-School Stressful For Kids?
A transition is a change. And going back to school, whether after a mid-year long break or for a new school year, is a big transition for most kids.
Change requires adjustment, no matter what. That’s why, for many people, transitions are a major source of distress. Children are no exception.
Think about what a new school year entails.
There might be a new classroom. New classmates. A different backpack, locker, or building. Unfamiliar styles and trends. An itchy uniform… and the list goes on and on.
While this is exciting for many children, there is also an element of uneasiness that a lot of kids feel.
How Parents Can Facilitate A Smooth Transition
As a parent, you can help your child transition smoothly into the new school year. Let’s talk about dealing with transition in general and going back to school in particular.
There are two aspects to transitions – the first is your personal experience with change, and the second is the magnitude of the change itself.
How you experience transitions includes your physical, emotional, and psychological reaction to change.
And the magnitude of the change – how significant it is and how much of an impact it has on your life – makes a big difference.
So let’s talk about your child, and how he experiences transition.
Essentially, we need to consider the various factors, including your child’s personality, sensory profile, and previous experiences, that will influence his experience of this transition of going back to school.
And, take into account aspects of transitioning back to school that might add to the significance of the change. This includes anything that might increase the newness – whether surrounding teachers, friends, a new building, etc.
Yes, back to school is a big thing.
It’s exciting, too – but did you know that even happy events can cause stress?
So, here are some ideas that can help you and your child deal with this challenge. In my art therapy work with children, I’ve seen that these tips can really help.
Let’s get down to it! Here are three tried and true tips to help your child transition back to school.
First of all, talk it through with your child. Let him know what to expect based on what you know. Then discuss the factors that are unknown.
Let your child talk and ask questions during this discussion. Listen to what he has to say. You’re aiming for a conversation that’s interactive, not a lecture.
(Tip: If it starts to feel like a lecture, stop.)
In order to calm his fears, you need to be able to really listen to what he is afraid of. And to do so, you need to really get down to his level and listen to what he has to say, not what you think he wants to say.
Which leads me to my second point.
And that is, be supportive and empathetic. When your child appears worried or anxious, tell him that you get it. Give a hug or hold his hand.
Listen to him.
Did I say that already? I can’t emphasize that enough. My intention is not to be repetitive, but my experience is that so many parents talk to their children without hearing them! If that happens to you, you can change the way you listen and that will help.
Finally, keep the conversation open even after the first day of school.
On an ongoing basis, at first more often and then less as he seems to adjust, bring up the topic of how he’s adjusting. Ask about his day and keep your finger on the pulse. Look out for signs that he is getting used to his new classroom, teacher, and friends.
Tip: If your child isn’t a talker, try to ask open-ended questions that require more than a “yes” “no” or “okay” response. For example: Instead of asking “How was your day?” try “Which classes did you have today?”
This might take time, and that’s okay. Stay positive and avoid criticism. As it is, it’s hard enough.
So, point out his successes and celebrate them.
If he’s having a rough time, don’t make a fuss about what is not going well. Let him know you believe it will smooth out and that you are there to hear him out for the entire journey.
As a parent, you have a tremendous amount of influence on how your child feels about himself. Especially when your child is having a hard time, your caring and positivity are very important.