Ways to Keep Your Cool as Kids Head Back to Class
Are you preparing to send a child back to the classroom? Wondering what this upcoming academic year holds and what you can do to be prepared?
Physician Assistant Anna Strackbein, PA-C, at our SECU Youth Crisis Center, a Monarch program, suggests a few simple ways to sort out the first few weeks of school but that can be effective through the end of the school year.
Establish a Routine
Parents enjoy the freedom that summer affords but a school year routine offers advantages, Anna explains. Begin a practice run of the routine before school starts with earlier bedtime and wake up. “We would love for summer vacation to last forever, but getting into a routine will pay off,” suggests Anna.
Part of a routine includes a healthy sleep schedule which is critical for children in their early years of development. Sound sleep routines during childhood promotes healthy habits throughout life, especially adolescence. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends that children 6 to 12 years of age sleep nine to 12 hours per day, and teenagers, 13 to 18 years of age sleep eight to 10 hours per day.
Useful ways to encourage or support a routine include a family calendar, waking up early enough not to feel rushed and a night-time regimen.
More Listening, Less Talking
How does the child feel about returning to school? Anna suggests working with your child so that the lines of communication remain open. “Two-way conversations are a great way to support your child returning to school. It is important to validate their emotions, feelings and fears,” she proposes.
If any feelings become difficult to navigate, Anna suggests coming up with a plan for managing those emotions, especially if the child has anxiety or another mental health disorder. Make sure to communicate this information about your child, she urges, adding that it is never too early to reach out to your child’s school before something escalates or your child feels overwhelmed.
It’s OK to not be OK
A change in routine, a new school or school year or a new set of friends can sometimes be overwhelming for a child. Open lines of communication and availability of resources can be helpful for both child and parent. “If a child is not opening up or doesn’t feel comfortable expressing their feelings, make sure they are aware of school resources available,” Anna says.
“Parents, make sure your child knows you are there for them. Encourage communication with teachers. Try and focus on the positives while also acknowledging that every child may feel different emotions. It’s OK to feel excited, uncertain and nervous because school is a big adjustment. Allow time for your child, and also the whole family, to adjust.”
Oftentimes, parents become overwhelmed themselves, and that’s OK, too, says Anna: “Let your child know that you are stressed and that there are healthy ways to cope. If they see mom and dad happy all the time, that’s not the norm and it could do more harm than good. We all have negative emotions and it is good to acknowledge those emotions and model healthy coping strategies.”
Hooray! A New School Year!
The beginning of the school year starts in a flurry and can be exciting and new for children, however for some difficulties can arise. “Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Ask friends, family or your child’s teacher for input,” Anna says.
For parents, remember to schedule time for self-care, exercise and family time that all have the power to enhance the school year. With children’s activities ramping up combined with the demands of a new school year, that can be difficult but finding what works for your family is key.
Posted on: Friday July 28, 2023