The school year has started full force here in Austin, Texas. The pencils are sharpened, the supplies bought, and the first day has come and gone. It's likely your child has started to adjust to the regular schedule the school year brings.
Most of the time this is a period full of excitement and new beginnings. Your children and teens are likely excited to be reconnecting with friends, while anticipating what the upcoming year will bring to their academic, interpersonal, and social worlds.
Sometimes however, starting school can be a source of stress and anxiety for kids and their families. Children experiencing separation anxiety, social phobia and other academic or school related concerns may dread the start of another school year. If you have noticed that some of these issues are emerging in your family, then here are some tips that might help:
Sleep: Make sure kids and teens are back on a regular sleeping schedule. It is difficult for them to learn if they can hardly keep their eyes open. Some tips to help may be to add soothing music to their evening routine, story time, or even a small glass of milk if bed wetting is not an issue.
School Visits: Take advantage of open houses and meetings with the teacher. If possible, take a tour of your child's school especially if they are attending a new school. This will help your child feel less anxious and more comfortable with a new environment. It also allows you to communicate freely with your child's teacher to address any adjustment issues your child may be experiencing.
Talk to Your Children: Review any worries or fears that your child may have since school has started. Review the previous year and discuss the things that went well, and some of the things that your child struggled with. Listen with an open mind. This is a time to really hear your child. Encourage them to come up with their own solutions, and step in when they need guidance.
Plan for Specifics: Does your child have a learning disability, mental health concern, or psychosocial issue that needs to be addressed? Contact the school counselor, special education coordinator, or the child's teacher to come up with a plan. It is helpful to let the teacher know about IEP's, 504's or specific needs of your child, before there are issues that need to be addressed. It is best to start off with stakeholders in the know, so that your child gets their needs met immediately.
Counseling Plan: Does your child need counseling? The school counselor can help your child transition effectively into the school year, especially if they have had trouble in the past with getting bullied, making friends, getting into fights, or getting along with teachers. The school counselor can be a source of comfort and support. They can also come up with a plan to help your child thrive in school.
Role Play: Once a plan is in place to address immediate educational concerns, it may be beneficial to help strengthen your child's social and coping skills through role play. Is your child worried about getting lost? Practice looking at a map of the school, or asking for help from peers and adults. Is your child unsure of how to make friends? Review conversation starters, or discuss ways to connect with others. You can also teach them coping skills such as deep belly breathing, or counting to ten before reacting to upsetting situations. Those are just a few examples of how you might be able to help your child practice social and coping skills, but don't hesitate to practice a variety of skills with your child. If you aren't sure what to work on with your child, your counselor can help.
Bonnie King, Ph.D., LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Counseling and Nature TherapyCenter, PLLC. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can learn more about counseling at www.counselingandnaturetherapy.com