Growing Minds: Helping you raise successful humans in a modern world

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5 ways to prepare your child for back-to-school

For better or for worse, it seems like the school year sneaks up every year. Some families may welcome a return to the rhythm and routine of the school schedule, while others may lament the conclusion of cherished vacation time. For kids and teens, the return to school can breed numerous, and sometimes conflicting, emotions such as feelings of excitement alongside feelings of worry. As a natural transition, the beginning of the school year can be a great time to take stock of what is working for the family and what habits and practices may need some tweaks and updates. I often encourage families to take advantage of this time to engage in some reflection and be intentional about setting kids up for success. Here are my top tips to best prepare your kids to go back to school this year.

1. Validate (but don’t enable) feelings of anxiety 

It is very common for kids to start to be more vocal this time of year in expressing worries and anxieties surrounding their return to school. Some good clues that anxiety may be fueling these conversations include statements that appear black-and-white, inflexible, or make inferences about outcomes that haven’t yet happened. Examples include, “I don’t want to go back to school. Math is too hard,” or, “Everyone in my class is mean, and I’m not going to have any friends.” It can be helpful to remember that some anxiety can be completely normal when stepping into unknown territory, such as a new school year, so I encourage parents to stay calm and use reflective listening to validate underlying feelings of fearfulness. However, to keep anxiety from spiraling, remind your kids that it is normal to feel fearful or worried before doing something brave, and they are, indeed, very brave. Other recommendations include minimizing avoidant behaviors, which can ultimately serve to make anxiety worse over time.

2. Promote a growth mindset

Another great strategy to prevent anxiety from growing is by promoting a growth mindset. Growth mindset resources have become abundant in recent years. Relevant applications to parents and children include harnessing the power of yet, such as, “you haven’t mastered that subject material… yet,” and reminders from parents such as, ‘mistakes help you improve,’ and ‘let’s see what other strategies you can try.’ (Big Life Journal).

3. Establish a routine 

Be proactive in deciding how you want the flow of the morning and evening to go. I recommend making a visual schedule and posting it somewhere everyone can see. It can be fun and helpful to have your kids help make the schedule and decide where it should be hung in the house. Including your kids in this process will encourage their commitment to the routine, as well as help them begin to commit the new routine to memory. 

4. Structure the environment for success 

There are endless ways to tweak your physical environment to aid in your child’s organizational skills. To narrow your focus, reflect on specific areas your child struggled with last year. For example, if your child struggled with remembering their homework, I recommend having a designated basket for ‘completed’ homework assignments kept by the door. Get your child in the routine of placing all completed homework in the basket at the end of the day, and since it is by the door, it will be easy for your child to grab on their way out in the morning. Other common recommendations include having a designated place in the house for your child to do their homework, laying out their outfit the night before, and getting your child in the routine of using a planner to organize their tasks.

5. Discuss expectations around electronic use

While every family will have slightly different expectations around electronic use, no one wants a power struggle. To reduce power struggles, a few rules of thumb I like to remind all families include: be collaborative with your child around expectations regarding electronic use by getting their feedback and learning which electronic mediums are most important to them and why; set expectations ahead of time; and remember, it is usually easier to increase screen time than decrease screen time. 

References

Parents guide to a growth mindset. (Big Life Journal). Biglifejournal.com

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is a Marriage and Family Therapist Associate based out of Wilsonville. Stephanie has trained in a variety of child and family therapeutic services, including multiple modalities of play therapy, parent-child interaction therapy, child-parent relationship therapy, and collaborative problem-solving. Stephanie has over ten years of experience working with youth and families in various settings and contexts, including public schools, the juvenile justice system, and psychiatric residential facilities. Stephanie owns and operates Seeds of Love Counseling, where she focuses on helping children, teens, and families feel and function their best through building strong attachments and positive mental health habits. Stephanie can be reached at www.seedsoflovecounseling.com.