As we prepare to send our kids off to school this week, we are excited, overwhelmed, and yes, a little nervous. Mental health consultant Stefanie Weiss offers some tips to handle the situation.
As we prepare to send our kids off to school this week, we are excited, overwhelmed, and yes, a little nervous. It is the start of a new year and a new chapter in our children’s lives. New teachers, schools, friendships, expectations, and my kids’ favorite…homework all come into play as we think about the start of a new school year. Importantly, it is our job as parents to make sure we give off a positive attitude to our children so they can relax and feel good as they walk on the bus and start off the new school year.
Here are some helpful tips on how to handle the situation:
1) Teacher assignments can cause kids (and parents) a lot of anxiety. You hear the teacher is the “mean” one and now your child is worried to go to school. RELAX. Sometimes other kids or parents can over exaggerate how tough a teacher is and this can cause other kids to become anxious. Take this information with a grain of salt. File away the information but give it time to form your own opinion. Go in with a positive attitude and your child will follow suit.
2) New School, new Grade, new expectations. Change can be very scary and overwhelming for kids. The last thing a nervous child needs is to hear their parents talk about how much more is expected of them. Keep it low key! Talk about the positives that come along with a new situation. New friends, new teachers, new classrooms, can be just the reset a child needs to start them off in a new direction. Sometimes change is just what the doctor ordered.
3) "NO one is in my class!" I have heard this from so many kids this past week. As long as your child has one point person they are in good shape. You don’t have to be with all of your best friends to have a good year at school. Try encouraging them to make some new friends and explain that school is for learning. They will focus on schoolwork better when they are less distracted talking to their friends all day.
4) "Too much homework freaks me out!" Homework is a part of life. Some kids deal with lots of homework better than others. The best suggestion with homework is to stick to a routine. The structure will cause less stress for the kid’s when they get home. Have them grab a snack and start their homework right away while they are still in “school mode.” The quicker they start to do it, the quicker they get it done.
5) My mother always says…”Organization is the key to success!” It is so true. The morning can be a high stress time. You have to get the kids up on time, feed them breakfast, make the beds, teeth brushed, lunches packed, and help them get dressed. This can be a challenge for many. Set that coffee timer for 20 minutes earlier than your kids are waking up so you can enjoy a few minutes of “quiet time” before the chaos begins. Also, do as much as you can the night before. Lay out clothing, pack lunches, school bags, and writing teacher notes can all be done the night before. With more time in the morning, your child will see you more relaxed and will feel more relaxed too.
6) Last but not least… BULLYING. Many kids are worried about being picked on or made fun of. Maybe it’s an older child on the bus or a kid that bothered them in their class last year. This can be very unsettling for a child. Bullying is not something to be ignored and swept under the rug. Talk to your children. Encourage them to always come to you no matter what. You can help them stick up for themselves and help them handle the situation better. Explain to them that you will be in constant contact with their teacher so they feel more at ease and know that someone is in their corner. Your children need to know that you are on their side and will always comfort and protect them at any age.
Any new situation can bring on anxious feelings. Stay calm and be positive and most of the time your children will too. You are bound to hit a few bumps along the way, but that is normal. One day you will look back and remember how starting school was just one of those things that might have been a challenge at first, but wound up being a very positive and exciting new journey. Remember your child will be looking towards you to make them feel more at ease. Put a genuine smile on your face and tell them that they are going to be fine, and that you are there for them to help them make this new transition a successful and positive one!
Stefanie Weiss is a mental health consultant and the founder of askStefanie, a concierge service providing organization, information, and doctor selection to families whose children, adolescents and teens struggle with anxiety, OCD, ADHD, PANDAS. She is a mom to three kids ages 11, 9, and 6. You can find Stefanie on Twitter and at her website.