Helping Your Child Acclimate to the School Year

Although the new school year is well underway for most of us, it will take weeks—perhaps more—for students to feel like they are back in any sort of routine. Last year was anything but a typical school year. Some would even go so far as to say that it didn’t count at all. So this year’s students have even more potential for anxiety than the usual stress that comes with a new teacher and new classmates. Because we are in such uncertain times, no one is facing the typical September transition that we are used to. Of course, we all desperately hope that this year will bring some normalcy back into our lives. While we await what this year has in store, here are some ways to set your child up for success.

Keep Tabs

Some kids are able to manage the day-to-day stressors of school on their own. If that describes your child, first of all, way to go! That is no easy feat. Secondly, without taking back any of the control, try to regain a little bit more involvement in their school lives. This could just mean being more present and aware. If you’re usually hands-off when it comes to your child’s schedules or homework assignments, put yourself in the loop. Whether or not your student is conscious of it, knowing that you are on the same page will be of immense comfort, even to a high school senior. 

Help Your Student Set Expectations

In addition to involving yourself in the day-to-day minutiae of school, also help students figure out what aspects of their days, weeks and months are predictable.  Especially for those students who are prone to anxiety, knowledge is power. The more information they know and are able to keep track of, the better they’ll be able to settle into the school year. This may look like charting out any assignments they already know about on a calendar. It could mean setting aside the same time each day or week that will be dedicated to homework, and other times that will be dedicated to leisure. And establish some sacred family time that they know will happen no matter what (even if they groan about it!)

Social Time

While social distancing is still very much the norm virtually everywhere, we have all already experienced our fair share of isolation. Right now, while staying safe, students need time with their friends more than ever. Whether your family is doing in person get-togethers or not, find ways for your child to connect with his or her friends. Even if it’s just a phone call or a video chat, make sure they don’t lose touch. Let kids spend as much time as possible outdoors while the weather is still nice! And remember, quality is more important than quantity. A few friends who let your child be herself and who bring out her best are way better than a lot of mediocre friends.

Keep Routines Solid at Home

We all know that students thrive on routine. With school district procedures so in flux, students need as much routine as they can get. Try to enforce routines at home as much as possible. We know that sometimes life happens and we need to be flexible. There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, the best kind of routines are those that have room for flexibility. The problem is when that “flexibility”  spirals to the point where the routine has been lost along the way. Be sure to keep returning to that routine, and your child will benefit from the structure while also learning how to be flexible.

Talk and Empathize

However your child is doing with this transition, make sure you are checking in with him emotionally. Even if he is not sharing what’s inside his head as much as you’d like, always lead with empathy. Try to understand where your students are coming from and what they are going through, and if you can’t, try harder. This is a vulnerable time for our children regardless of the age. Make sure they know you’re here for them so that they can have the best year possible.

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