Judy Edouard, MSc, C.Psych.Assoc. (supervised practice)
Entering into a new school year can be a very exciting time, but it can also trigger feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. As children don their backpacks and head back each September, they will have numerous adjustments to make—new teachers, new classmates, and new routines, to name a few. As parents, there is a lot you can do to help your child transition to a new school year. Here a few helpful places to start:
1. Help your child get organized.
- Have them prepare for school the night before. For instance, assist them in picking out their clothes, preparing their lunch, and packing their backpack each evening.
- Help them develop a habit of putting items such as their shoes, backpack, and homework in the same place every time, so they are easy to find.
- Create a checklist or a visual reminder of what your child needs to do before school and what they need to bring to encourage independence.
2. Help your child to cope effectively with anxiety and stress.
- If your child tends to be very self-critical, help them to change their negative self-talk. For example, if your child says “I’m stupid” encourage them to think of ways that they are intelligent and capable.
- If your child tends to avoid activities that make them anxious (e.g., school work), help them slowly approach these situations through providing support and praise for small attempts.
- Teach your child relaxation strategies like deep breathing or picturing themselves in their happy place. Encourage them to use these skills when they are anxious and model use of these skills yourself.
3. Support your child in maintaining their overall well-being.
- Do your best to maintain a routine with your child, including eating regular meals, physical activity, and sleep. These are essential to ensuring your child is functioning at their best.
- Schedule enjoyable activities into your child’s day so that they are able to relax and rebuild their stamina for learning.
- Support their self-esteem by giving them plenty of opportunities to showcase their strengths and feel a sense of accomplishment outside of school.
While the beginning of the school year can be stressful, it gives children many opportunities to learn and grow. Supporting your child in developing these skills as they start a new school year will set them up for success now and throughout their life.