Back to School Stress: Help Your Child Manage Their Transition

By Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S

As the saying goes, time flies. And this is no truer than in the summer. From the shorter days to the crisp nights, autumn seems to arrive earlier every year. Especially if you ask children.

With the season winding down at a rapid pace, many parents wonder how to help their child transition and head back to school without apprehension.

Some things that prove helpful include:

Discussing your child’s schedule: “Making the unknown known” is a theme we convey a lot and for good reason – unpredictability is the enemy of the brain. This is no truer than for kids. Children like to know what to expect – it helps them adapt and manage their emotions. So, tell them what’s in store!

Learn your child’s schedule and discuss everything about it – the classes, the teachers, the layout of the building. If your child’s attending a new school, consider taking a tour. This allows them to see what the school looks like, where they need to go, and how to open their locker, something that can elicit worry if they’ve never had one before.

Asking them how they feel:  Your child may be happy or sad, excited or mad. Or they might be all of those things rolled up in a giant meatball of emotion. Whatever they’re sensing, allow them to express it. Whatever their thought, allow them to voice it. When it comes to feelings, there are no wrong answers.

Acknowledging the nerves: Starting a new school year is scary because anything new is scary. Thus, empathize with your child. Tell them how nervous you were when you started a new job or reflect on your own school days and how you feared tripping down the stairs on the first day of fourth grade. Empathy allows your child to see that you’ve been scared too…and you’ve lived to tell about it.

Learning about the activities offered: Most schools offer something for everyone – from band to computer club, sports to dance team, education embraces more than run-of-the-mill academics. Find out what your child’s school offers and share the options. Your kid may dread the thought of science class but be thrilled that the school has a debate team.

Letting them know you’re there: Depending on the age of your child, they may or may not want you to walk them in the first day of school. But, even if they prefer that you subtly wave from the car, let them know you’ll be there if they need you. Anytime…..even in the middle of algebra.