Back to School? No Problem: A Therapist’s Survival Guide to Beginning the School Year
Going back to school can be a nerve-wracking time for children, teens, and parents too! As a therapist, I commonly find that families experience a higher rate of anxiety as the summer ends, and the reality of the school year starting sets in. Lunches must be packed, first day of school clothes need to be prepared and washed, or maybe your kiddo needs a new pair of shoes AGAIN because they seem to grow like weeds! There are so many things to prepare, and so many schedule changes to accommodate. In session, a common question I’m asked is “How can I prepare for starting school?” Because of this question, I’ve prepared 3 things that I recommend for families to feel better prepared as the school year begins:
- Visit the School Grounds. Whether you’re starting a new school, or going back to the same one, familiarizing your child with the school environment can help first-day jitters. Have a fun day on the playground, or seek permission to walk the halls if your child is a first-timer. Most schools have a registration day or “meet the teacher” day, and I highly recommend taking your child to this. The more familiar they are, the safer they feel, and the better the outcome for your child in school.
- Establishing a Routine. Going from summertime to schooltime can prove difficult as our children may want to stay up late and sleep in even later! Whether it be due to anxiety or exhaustion, I have found that my clients who struggle to get out of bed in the morning say it is easier to do so when they have a routine to follow. This also proves true for clients who have Insomnia, in that having a nightly routine to look forward to helps them get to bed at a reasonable time at night. Morning routines can have tasks such as waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and so on. Nightly routines can have tasks such as eating dinner, taking a shower, washing your face, watching your favorite show, and putting on your favorite pajamas. I find that having a physical checklist for children to mark on helps build confidence in that they get to celebrate each task they mark off. The possibilities are endless, and you can cater them to what works best for your family!
- Engage and Show Interest! This is such a remarkable time in a child’s life. Even if you find your child saying one-word answers about how school was when you check in with them, giving them your energy and undivided attention can prove to be of huge benefit in familial relationships. This shows your child that what they are doing is important and holds value. In time, they may even prompt the conversation, and want to share the important things about their day with you. Another way to show engagement and interest is where financial means allow, encouraging your child to partake in a sport or club to explore their interests and skills.
There are a lot of ways to prepare for the school year, but these three things have resonated with the families I’ve worked with the most. By familiarizing your child with the grounds and the staff on site, establishing a routine for getting ready for bed and in the morning, and actively engaging with your child to show interest and checking in after the school day, your child will feel supported throughout the process of starting the school year. Children who mention feeling supported by their parents in session commonly also mention having a positive relationship with them. Let your relationship with your child flourish through the school year by starting it off strong, and let these tips support you along the way! To Learn more and Schedule an Appointment with Megan go to https://getcenteredcounselingstl.com/staff/megan-patterson-ba-cit/