The end of summer and the beginning of a new school year can be a stressful time for children, as well as their parents. The thoughts of a new school, dealing with different social settings, a new teacher or the possibility of a tougher academic year are all worries. It is that feeling of the unknown that creates stress, anxiety, and sometimes the blues in children. Fortunately, children are very capable of change and parents can help by fostering resilience to make their first day back a positive one.
First, it is important to listen to your children’s thoughts and feelings about going back to school. Simply ask how they are feeling and then keep listening. Once you have a good grasp of their feelings, empathize with your children. Let them know that change can be difficult, but also exciting. Let them know that being nervous is very normal and reassure them that everything will be okay. This is also a great time to share stories from your childhood. It is helpful to focus on times that you had to overcome anxiety and teach your children the skills you learned from those personal examples.
Establishing a routine and getting organized in advance can also help ease the stress of the new school year. Sleep is essential in decreasing fears and irritability. Start a few days or a week before the first day of school to get your children back on a new sleep schedule. Attend the open house at school to familiarize yourself and your children with the layout of the building, meet the teachers and meet new classmates. To avoid any last minute anxiety or stress, organize their backpacks, make a checklist of things to accomplish before the school year begins, and even lay out their first day of school outfits.
Most importantly, get involved and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Knowing your children’s schools and your community will help you to better understand the transition they are undergoing. If you feel the stress of the school year is too much for you or your children at any time, seek the advice of a mental health professional to help you and your children cope. With some simple planning and reassuring, you can beat the back to school blues and make the first day of school a successful one.
Lori Atkinson, Operations Assistant for The Kim Foundation
Lori Atkinson joined The Kim Foundation in May 2015 as an Operations Assistant. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from UNL in Middle Level Education. She was an 8th grade English teacher in the Omaha Public Schools for ten years and started a small non-profit in her husband’s memory in 2010. Lori assists with many of the day-to-day tasks for The Kim Foundation which includes scheduling presentations in the community, coordinating booths at conferences, attending mental health trainings, researching mental illness/suicide, and working community events. Lori is the proud mom of three children and is actively involved in her church.