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6 Tips to Support Your Back-to-Schooler: It Starts at Home

Transitioning from a carefree summer to a more regimented school schedule can mean trouble for many children (and parents). Here is how you can support your child or adolescent as they return to hitting the books.



Ah, back-to-school. The smell of newly minted notebooks, the excitement of picking that first day outfit, and the thrill of seeing new friends after a lazy summer off. Commericials would tell us that children thrive at this time of year as they peddle the latest fashions and accessories. Yet, a fresh start and new beginnings mean a change from the norm; a change of classroom environment, of teachers, grade, peers, perhaps schools, and this doesn't even include the addition of before and after school programs. And change can be hard.


I remember being a back-to-schooler. I remember being excited to reunite with friends but I also remember the butterflies in my stomach as I wondered if my teacher was going to be nice or not. I remember the feeling of dissapointment that I felt when friends moved away, or when I was reunited with school bullies who I had managed to avoid for the summer. As a parent, I understand the chaos that this season brings, the stress of trying to schedule a new year of activities, of packing healthy lunches, and the dread of homework time.


So what can you do in order to tackle the back-to-school season, while honoring all of the emotions that you and your child feel during this time? Here are some tips and strategies that have helped families that I work with as well as my own:


  1. Provide a safe space. Home should be a place where everyone can relax, let their guard down, and decompress after a long day. This also goes for children. As a parent, save space for big emotions without judgement. Offer a soft place to land with a hug, a suprise cup of cocoa, or an acknowledgement that transitions are difficult. Show resilience by pushing forward and by communicating to your child that they can do hard things. You are your child's safety net.

  2. Create a calming atmosphere. As a parent, I know how cluttered a family house can get. However, small things like lighting a candle, playing soft music, or going outside can provide everyone with a sense of calm and room to breathe. Setting up an environment for your family to thrive is incredibly important. Is it possible to minimize some of the physical objects getting in your way? Be flexible in your thinking. Could your child benefit from doing their homework on the floor? Do they like the sound of a crackling fireplace in the background while they work? For more informaiton on environmental design, feel free to message me!

  3. Let go of expectations. So many parents put pressure on themselves to have their kids in everything that it actually becomes a detriment to the child and to the family. If you feel that you are constantly on the road, or are racing around, then maybe you need to take a step back. Can you simplify your schedule? Can an activity be swaped for a family nature walk or reading a book together? You do not need to do it all. Stop comparing your child to their peers. Your child is unique and has unique needs. Perhaps they need more time to decompress after school, and need to spend less time on homework. That's ok. Be patient and know your child's skills and limitations. Help them to develop their abilities but don't shove them into boxes that don't fit.

  4. Listen. Being a parent means being there for your child throughout life's trials and tribulations. Be sure to check in with your child to see how their day went. Ask for details (even if they don't disclose at first), to show that you are interested. Share parts of your day. Tell them that you missed them and that you like hearing what they have been up to. When children feel like they can speak to their parents, they are more likely to open up about the hard things.

  5. Advocate. The reality of today's educational system is a grim one. Lack of funds, lack of staff, and educator burnout have led to a system that is experiencing a shoftfall of support for children (let along children with special rights). You know your child best and are, therefore, your child's best advocate. Get to know your school principal and teachers. Introduce yourself to the resource teacher. Become familiar with your child's IEP (if they have one) and be sure that it is being upheld. Reach out to community resources in your area that may be able to support your child in school. If this seems like too much, hire an advocate who can speak on behalf of you and your partner in championing your child's educational experience (psst...I can do this for you!).

  6. Look after yourself. When we feel stress, frustration, anxiety, or sadness, our children pick up on it. They may not be able to pinpoint the whys behind your emotions, but they feel it vicerally. Make sure to talk about your emotions with your child (e.g., "Mommy is feeling anxious right now because there is a long list of things to do to get ready for back-to-school") and how you plan on addressing them (e.g., "I think that I am going to take a bath tonight to help me relax"). This will help your child become emotionally literate and will also nudge you to participate in self-care. Happy parents raise happy children.

Back-to-school season, though stressful, can be managed if we remember to put families first. For more tips about how your can support your child at school and at home, please email me at admin@secondnaturetherapy.ca. 


Happy parenting,

Anastasia

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