Resources for Parents

Resources for Parents

How to Support Kids as They Return to School

How to Support Kids as They Return to School

Takeaways for busy parents:

  • Creating a safe space for your child to acknowledge both positive and negative feelings about returning to school will promote positive communication skills.
  • Children need to preview changes to their current schedule, including routine changes and classroom changes.
  • Consistent systems, such as a designated homework space or helping prepare lunch promotes independence and autonomy.
  • Maintaining open lines of communication with your child's teachers can help to ensure their unique needs in the classroom are met.
  • Preparing for school can feel overwhelming and exciting to everyone, parents play a critical role in supporting their child through this time.

As the new academic year approaches, it's natural for parents and educators to feel both excitement and concern, especially given our children's challenges in the last few years. As we navigate the return to school, we must approach this transition with empathy and understanding. Proper support can help children thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.

Although it happens each year, the start of school can sneak up on many parents. It is easy to remember going back to school shopping for school supplies or getting new backpacks, but it is easy to forget to prepare your child for the upcoming changes. As important as supporting a child's physical needs before school, it's just as essential to help a child's mental health needs before the start of a new year. Parents can provide significant support to their children during this critical transition period. Here are some tips for helping kids prepare for the changes as they return to school.

Encourage open communication

Creating a safe space for children to express their thoughts and emotions is vital. Encourage them to share their excitement, concerns, and fears about returning to school. Let them know it's okay to feel nervous or anxious about returning to school and offer support and encouragement. Active listening and validating their feelings will foster trust and help them feel understood. If a child is anxious to return to school, provide empathy while focusing on the positive aspects of the school day, such as seeing friends and participating in fun activities. Assure them that their emotions are valid and that you support them every step of the way.

Establish routine and structure

Children thrive on routines, as they provide a sense of stability and predictability. Begin easing into the school routine a few weeks before the first day. Gradually adjust bedtime, wake-up time, and meal schedules to align with the school day. This preparation helps children avoid sudden changes that can lead to fatigue and stress. Setting clear expectations can reduce anxiety and help kids feel more in control of the upcoming changes.

Preview upcoming changes

Visit the school before the first day to help your child become familiar with the environment. Show them their classroom and meet their teachers to reduce any uncertainty. If a visit to the school isn't possible, create a social story with your child to preview the upcoming changes. Any exposure to the new routine, pictures of their teachers or classroom, or classroom expectations can help prepare the child. Remind your child of the upcoming changes to their afterschool schedule. Visual schedules can be helpful to promote understanding for young children.

Develop helpful systems

Designate a quiet, well-lit space for homework and studying. A dedicated area helps children focus on schoolwork and establishes good study habits. Teach your child practical time management skills like creating to-do lists and using planners. These skills will help them balance school, homework, and extracurricular activities. Give your child opportunities to practice independence, such as packing their backpack or making their lunch. This practice will help build their confidence and prepare them for school responsibilities.

Set realistic expectations

Discuss what your child can expect regarding academics, social interactions, and extracurricular activities. Setting realistic expectations helps manage potential stress and fosters a positive outlook. Instill a growth mindset in your child by emphasizing the value of effort, perseverance, and learning from mistakes. Recognize and celebrate your child's accomplishments, both big and small. Positive reinforcement boosts their self-esteem and motivates them to continue working hard. Celebrate progress, effort, and resilience, as these qualities are just as important as academic achievements.

Collaborate with the school team

Maintaining open lines of communication with your child's teachers is crucial. Share any challenges your child may be facing, and work together to create strategies for success. Some families choose to make a "face sheet" of their child, explaining their strengths, difficulties, and techniques that have worked for them in previous classrooms. By establishing a partnership with educators, you can work to ensure that your child's unique needs are met within the school.

Parents play a critical role in helping their children feel prepared and confident when returning to school. Remember to be patient and understanding as they navigate this transition, and celebrate even small successes. Remember, a strong foundation at home sets the stage for a successful educational journey.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and is not meant nor intended to be health care advice or treatment. Should you need assistance with any mental health or psychological issue, including any parenting issues, you should contact a mental health professional.