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Back to School Success Strategies for Parents

Back to School Success Strategies for Parents

Help your children be their best, emotionally and socially.

It's back-to-school season and we all know what that means, plenty of stress, school supply shopping, and the struggle of trying to find the right after-school activity for your kids. But while you're feeling frazzled, are you thinking about how your kids feel about the end of summer? With these tips from Shelley Berman, LCSW, returning to class doesn't have to be so difficult, for you and your little ones.


As September approaches and families enjoy their final days of summer vacation, ads for school supplies and the latest fashions remind us the first day of school is almost here. Here's what parents can do to help their kids.

Be Positive

Going back to school can cause stress for parents and children. Open up conversations with your child by asking positive questions. For example, instead of saying, “Months have passed since school ended. Are you worried about seeing your friends again?” try “Soon you will see your friends at school. What are you most excited to tell them about your summer vacation?” Help children focus on the excitement and new beginnings, rather than their fears.

Listen Supportively

Just as children have to learn academics, they also need to learn how to express their emotions. Supportive listening is when parents show they are trying to understand their child’s point of view, even if it does not seem realistic. Supportive listening is difficult when any child acts out, yet listening sends an important message to that child: her point of view is heard, her frustrations are normal, and the situation will be tackled together.

Structure Routines

Everyone feels less anxious and stressed when there is a plan. Having consistent routines before school, after school, and at bedtime helps to reduce anxiety by relieving the stress that comes from the unknown. Busy schedules can cause anxiety and tension, but when there are constants that everyone expects, like a family dinner or bedtime book, children will feel more secure knowing somebody is in control of what otherwise might feel like chaos.

Plan Safety

Although it is difficult for parents to talk with their children about a dangerous “what if” situation, doing so is necessary. Discuss and practice age appropriate scenarios about what children should do if they are faced with various situations, such as being approached by a stranger, seeing someone get hurt, feeling sick, or being lonely at recess. Having a plan reduces panic and anxiety if those situations arise.

Build Resilience

The ability to recover from disappointment is crucial for your child’s emotional health. Help your child learn different ways to cope with the feelings of disappointment. What do you want your children to do when faced with difficult situations? What would you do? Some healthy coping skills would be to take deep breaths, talk to a person you trust, exercise, play, listen to music, or relax with a favorite activity. Your children will grow from these experiences, especially if you are the coach.

Going to school is one of many adventures in your child’s lifetime. Relationships that nurture with clear guidance as to what is acceptable and what is not are the key. The teamwork of student, parent, and teacher provides a foundation that reaches beyond academic achievement. When children know that the significant adults in their lives have faith in them, want to listen to them, and are there to help them, they are more likely to succeed in all their endeavors.

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Author: Shelley Berman, LCSW, the founding Coordinator of the Artists-In-Residence program for the Westport Board of Education, directed Youth Programming in Bridgeport and Norwalk community centers, and has extensive experience in the field of geriatrics. She currently practices in Westport, CT. See More

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