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We cannot believe it is that time of year again, but it is true—the first day of the school year is just around the corner. Because we know that the beginning of the school year can be chaotic and nerve-wracking, but also really exciting time of the year, we decided to put forth some tips to help make for a positive start to the year:

Reestablish ROUTINES

Creating a functional routine that works for your family can be a game-changer! Just make sure the routine works for you and your family and does not add to your stress.

Sleep: During the summer, sleep schedules are often inconsistent—we recommend reestablishing a solid sleep schedule as your first priority; to combat the bedtime battles, you might consider slowing backing up bedtime each day across the week prior to school starting. Sleep helps feeds attention, learning, and memory abilities; poor sleep hygiene can make it much more difficult to cope with even relatively minor stressors. As a reminder the American Association of Pediatrics recommends the following guidelines regarding sleep of children/adolescents:

AgeHours of Daily Sleep
0-3 months14–17 hours
4-12 months12–16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
1-2 years11–14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
3-5 years10–13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
6-12 years9–12 hours per 24 hours
13-18 years8–10 hours per 24 hours

Prepare in Advance: Create as little stress as possible for your mornings—prep whatever lunches are needed the night prior, have a specific place for backpacks or items needed to be ready to walk out the door, and pick out the next day’s clothes as a part of your nighttime routine.

Manage Back-To-School Anxiety

The transition back to school as summer comes to a close (or the transition to school for the first time) can be an anxiety-provoking time for children and parents alike. Some tips to help manage these symptoms include:

  • Listen to their worries! Give your child the opportunity to express their feelings out loud. Validate and listen to them, while also normalizing their experience; validating their feelings helps your child as they start to confront and conquer difficult emotions.
  • Discuss stress management tools! You can help your child with anxiety by modeling stress management. After discussing their worries you can help your child strategize how to handle the things they are concerned about. This might be utilizing coping skills, such as meditation or breathing strategies, or identifying a solution to a more concrete concern.
  • Do some test runs! Take advantage of back-to-school nights or meet the teacher if available and possible; these types of activities helps to reduce anxiety around the unknown and helps them feel more prepared with what to anticipate.
  • Arrange for a handoff! If you think your child may struggle or be reluctant to separate, it is helpful to have someone primed to meet and engage them when you arrive. If your child continues to have significant separation problems, consider reaching out for a consultation.

Remember to Make Time for Play!

Make sure to let your kids have some time to play when they are finished with their work day. If you think about it, kids are at school for typically 8 hours a day (or more), which is a standard work day for most adults. They spent this time having to work and challenge their minds and bodies, follow all the rules, and having someone else control their entire day—it is all very exhausting for them. Allotting some time for free play can do wonders for your child’s mind and spirit—there is a lot of pent-up energy in those little bodies that just needs to escape; so let it—you will have more productive and peaceful evenings if you do.

Do Your Homework and Plan for Homework WITH your Kids

With the school year starting, homework will likely be assigned. Establish a routine for how and when homework is done—our recommendation is sometime between 30 minutes after you get home and before you start your bedtime routine. Also, make sure your child has a workspace that is distraction-free.

Make Time for Connection (MOST IMPORTANT)

Separating school life and all the stressors that come with it from family time can be challenging. Scheduling fun activities for evenings and weekends, like a game night or a hike, can also provide the relaxation and sense of connection that will help your child focus and learn during the school day. Even engaging in daily check-ins with your child can make a big difference—such as over breakfast or even on the ride home from school. These kind of connections gives your child confidence that you are facing these new challenges together, and it provides a built-in time for them to come to you with any concerns as the school year goes on.

If Concerns Persist

While many children experience nerves in the coming weeks before school, parents and caregivers should be mindful of warning signs that may indicate the need for professional interventions. Some of these signs include changes in eating habits, problems sleeping, excessive clinginess, increased irritability, social isolation, tantrums, or headaches (read more here for help deciding if you might need to seek counseling for your child).

If any of these behaviors persist longer than two weeks, consider reaching out to our office for a free phone consultation. Many children can work through back-to-school nerves individually, but when it interferes with daily living, it’s time to seek help. To get started, reach out for a free initial phone consultation at 469-640-0846 or through our Contact Us form.

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