Ready or not…it’s back to school time

Summer seems to fly by, doesn’t it? In a few short weeks, your daily schedule is going to shift as kids head back to school.

Some of you are seasoned professionals at getting school supplies, preparing lunches, buying school clothes, and prepping your child for the upcoming school year. But, if this is your first time sending your kiddo to school, here are a few tips to make the transition a smooth one.

  1. Start planning now. Schedule a time to shop for clothes and supplies, decide if your child will pack a lunch or purchase a school lunch, make a menu for the month then a grocery list so you are prepared.
  2. Get on a schedule before the school year starts. Kids (and you) need time to adjust to a different routine. Talk to your kids about the new routine. Set bedtimes and wake-up times the week before school starts and stick to it.
  3. Give them some responsibilities for getting ready for school. Setting out their clothes the night before, preparing their supplies, organizing their backpacks, etc)
  4. Set your expectations for the morning routine. Identify the tasks your child needs to complete to be ready to leave for school (get dressed, brush teeth, eat breakfast, etc). Set a time limit. Start to practice this the week before school starts.
  5. Set your expectations for after school. Identify the tasks your child needs to complete when they arrive home from school (put backpack in designated area, change out of school clothes, have a snack, do homework, etc).
  6. Accept the fact that things won’t always go exactly as planned. Life happens and things don’t always go as expected. It’s okay. Roll with it and move on, everyone is doing the best they can in the moment. This creates less stress for you and your kiddo.

Now that we’ve talked logistics, I want to discuss the more important aspects of going back to school…feelings…yours and theirs.

Feelings influence everything we do…how we show up and interact with others, how we respond to the unexpected, and how we navigate the ups and downs of life. Despite your best efforts, you are going to feel overwhelmed at times as you get back into a school routine. It’s okay. Nothing in life has to be perfect 100% of the time.

Let’s talk about you…when you’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or defeated, be gentle on yourself and show forgiveness towards the goof-ups. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can and that’s good enough! Then use the unexpected circumstances to teach your children life skills.

First, kindly and gently share your feelings with your children…(i.e. “I feel stressed when we aren’t ready for school on time”). You are showing your kiddos that feelings are natural, normal, and manageable. Then, show your children how to be compassionate and forgiving towards themselves by demonstrating compassion and forgiveness towards yourself…(i.e “I did my best today and that’s good enough…tomorrow is another day”). Lastly, teach your children how to problem-solve by identifying a plan of action to do things differently the next time…(i.e “Tomorrow, I’m going to get up on-time so things run a little smoother”).

When you handle frustration, disappointment, and overwhelm in this way, you are modeling coping skills, resiliency, and problem-solving to your children. Each of those are invaluable skills your child needs to navigate school, relationships, and life in general.

Now, let’s talk about the kids. Your son or daughter may have a lot of mixed emotions about school. Some may be excited, some may be apprehensive, and some may be a little of both. That’s normal but it’s important to talk to them about their feelings.

Sometimes kids can’t label their feelings so you need to help them name it to tame it. Give their feelings words (i.e “You’re feeling nervous, excited, scared, etc). This gives them the tools to express their emotions verbally instead of acting out or internalizing the feelings. More importantly, VALIDATE THEIR FEELINGS (i.e “I can see you’re excited, you really like school” or “I know you feel scared and that’s okay, I felt scared too when I first started school”) . This doesn’t mean you agree with their feelings necessarily but it does show them it’s okay to feel the way they are feeling. Feelings are never right or wrong…they just occur. Much of the time, validation is enough to soften the sharpness of negative feelings and enables kids to do what they need to do. Secondly, show your child compassion and support…(i.e “I’m sorry you’re feeling nervous, I’m going to help you when you need it and you’re going to be okay”). Lastly, teach them how to problem-solve. Ask them to come up with a solution to the thing that’s causing distress. For example, your child might be worried about getting on the wrong bus. Ask them what they think they can do if they aren’t sure which bus is the correct one. Give them an opportunity to identify a plan of action (i.e Child: “I don’t know what bus to get on”  Parent: “what could you do to help you remember?” Child: “ask a teacher for help“) or, if they can’t come up with a solution, make suggestions (i.e child: “I don’t know what bus to get on” Parent: “what could you do to help you remember?” Child: “I don’t know” Parent: “We can write the bus number on your backpack or you could ask a teacher for help“).

Other things you can do to help your child with strong emotions is give them healthy ways to cope using anything that engages one of the five senses (sight, touch, taste, sound, smell). Using sensory activities neurologically triggers the brain to regulate overwhelming emotions. Here are a few things anyone can do to manage strong emotions. Writing in a journal or drawing representations of our emotions, exercising/playing, craft activities, yoga, and mindfulness breathing apps on Youtube, Calm Mind, or Insight. All are great resources.

It’s important to remember that mental wellness is as important as physical wellness.  Each are going to prepare your child for success in life. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me through my website www.counselingwithtracie.com or email counselingwithtracie@gmail.com.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!!

 

 

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