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Smooth Sailing: 3 Strategies to Help Your Kid Go Back To School

It's that time of year again: the back-to-school season. If we're being honest, isn't it one of the most stressful seasons of the year as a parent? There's an endless list of supplies to buy and tasks to complete to get our kids ready to step into the classroom that first day of school. There's also the painful chore of getting our kids out of summer break mode and ready to get back into the routine of waking up to alarms, getting to school on time, and sitting through classes.

Have you ever thought about your kid, though? If getting back to school is tough on you, how hard must it be for them? They have to worry about things like making new friends, adjusting to different teachers, and reopening their minds to education after weeks of doing fun and relaxing things. It's normal for kids to experience anxiety as they transition back to school but they don't have to go through it without strategies to support them!

3 Strategies to Help Your Kids Go Back To School

Let's dive right into how you can help your kid start off the new school year!


1) Talk About The Difficulty of Going Back To School

Let's face it: no matter your kid's age, it's a safe bet they'll experience some jitters as they start prepping to go back to class. Maybe they're starting over at a new school or are making a big transition like going into middle school or high school for the first time. Perhaps their best friend moved away over the summer or they were bullied last year and they're anxious about finding a group to fit in with. Whatever they're facing, their nerves are going to be running high.

As parents, it's easy to think that our kids will automatically come to us as soon as they start experiencing these back-to-school worries. However, the truth can be pretty different. Our kids might not have the words to express their anxieties or they might opt for silence because they're afraid of adding to our stress load as we prepare to get them back to class. Instead of letting them suffer in silence, take a proactive approach.


Open Up the Lines Of Communication.

Good communication isn't something that just happens (wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy?). Especially in stressful seasons like returning to school, explicitly state to your kids that you are there to offer a judgment-free listening ear, no matter how small the problem might seem. Better yet, take it a step further and gently ask your kids about things that might be making them nervous about going back to school.

As you begin having these discussions, it's important to avoid making one crucial mistake. Never downplay the worries your kid tells you about! Objectively, they may make no sense but dismissing them or disregarding them tells your kid that you don't actually care. When you engage in purposeful and judgment-free conversation with your kid, you start laying a foundation of trust that will keep the lines of communication open through the back-to-school season and beyond. 


Name the Difficult Emotions.

It doesn't matter your kid's age; help them put words to what they're experiencing by giving examples of what it might look like to feel anxious, self-conscious, discouraged, or sad. This will look different if you're talking to young kids or high school students but the central message is the same. Help them face their negative emotions about going back to school by naming exactly what they're feeling. While this might seem simple, it's a very powerful tool to protect your kids' mental health because they'll go from stuffing their emotions to addressing them directly.

Start with these two actions to get communication moving as school approaches (and keep it going throughout the rest of the year).


2) Establish a Routine As Your Kids Go Back To School

Never underestimate the value of a schedule! Although our kids might not express it, their brains naturally crave patterns so they can feel safe and secure knowing what's coming up next. During the first few weeks, going back to school will feel chaotic as they're forced to handle new teachers, classmates, and schedules all at once. While you can't take away the stress that transitioning back to school puts on them, you can provide a safe environment for them at home by having a routine in place. This involves a couple of different strategies.


Start Getting Them Used to a Routine Before School Even Starts.

Let's face it. Summer is wonderful. Don’t we all have incredible memories of the freedom we had from the grind of homework and tight school schedules? However, it's this exact freedom that makes it so hard to transition back to school. Help prepare your kids by implementing new routines a few weeks before they go back to class. This might look like setting bedtimes, having your kids wake up to alarms, or putting structure back into their days. Taking these steps early on will give your kids time to get used to routines again, well before the chaos of going back to school sets in.


Lay Out an Organized Game Plan for the School Day.

In the days leading up to the start of the school year, gather your kids together to discuss the details of what this new season looks like. Be as explicit as possible by covering things like who will drop them off and pick them up at school or what evenings will look like if they join extra-curricular activities. Don't worry, we're not telling you to lock in your schedule for the whole year now without the freedom to adjust as things come up. The important thing is to give your kids a strong framework to lean on by clearing up whatever uncertainties you can.

Implementing these strategies will help you and your family smoothly transition back to school and alleviate some of your kids' anxieties about their new routine.


3) Highlight The Positives of Going Back to School

Think about the last time you had to go to work after a vacation. Wasn't it difficult to stay positive about returning to the routine of your normal work schedule? Now put yourself in your kids' shoes and think about what negative emotions they'll experience as they have to transition from the freedom of their break to the grind of their school schedule. They'll likely struggle to maintain a good attitude about the change so this is where you come in.


Help Them Set a Positive Mindset.

We all know the power of our attitude to help or derail us in difficult situations. As adults, it's a skill we've had years to practice honing but our kids don't have that advantage and need our help. In the weeks leading up to the start of classes, start discussing the exciting things that will happen when they go back to school. Ask them questions about the friends they're excited about seeing, the projects they'll do in their favorite class, the clubs and sports they want to join, and so on.

Doing this helps puts your kid into the mindset to start looking forward to going back to school instead of facing it with only dread. It's important to be proactive and start these conversations a few weeks before school starts! The more you shape your kids' mindset ahead of time, the better equipped they'll be to start their first day with a positive outlook.


Call Out The Good Things That Happen to Them. 

Starting the very first day of school, ask them about something good that happened to them so they can wrap up the day on a positive note. Avoid a "yes" or "no" question like "Did something good happen today?" and try using "What was the best part of your day?" to invite discussion.

Before you start, be sure to ask your kid this question when it's best for THEM. We're parents, so we know how tempting it is to start asking our kids questions as soon as they step in the car or walk in the front door but wait until your kid has had at least a second to breathe. They might be feeling so overwhelmed by the chaos of the day and the last thing they want to do is answer a question. You can sidestep this all together by waiting until they seem calm and relaxed before beginning to talk about the positive things in their day.


Implementing These Strategies Sets Your Kid Up For Success.

There's no denying that the back-to-school season is hard for everyone in the family. It's chaotic and stressful but that doesn't mean there aren't any ways to help make it easier. Thinking proactively and strategically can help you prepare your kids to make the transition smoothly while creating a communicative relationship with you.