During an appearance on Great Day Houston I shared a few ideas with host Debra Duncan on how to get your children emotionally prepared for the upcoming school year. Here’s are some of my top tips for parents.
While new experiences can be exciting even the most secure kid may feel a little nervous about school related changes.
Facing new or different experiences often leaves kids wondering things like:
• How am I going to measure up to everyone else?
• Will I be able to find my classes?
• Will I get bullied or picked on by other kids?
• What if nobody likes me?
Even small things like figuring out where lockers are and how they work, can be intimidating.
Tips for emotionally preparing your kids for a new school or transitioning to a new grade level
• Talk it up
Help kids get excited about the upcoming school year. Consider counting down the days, make buying school supplies fun not a chore or developing a back to school ritual. Consider using the transition as an opportunity to create a special memory for your children.
Ways to help kids get excited about the first day. – Make a special breakfast together to start things off on a positive note. – For a teen or tween stop off at a local coffee shop before heading off to school. – Pack a lunch filled with children’s favorite foods. – Put a note, joke or riddle in your kids lunch box or back pack.
• Do a test run
If possible, visit your child’s new school so they have a chance to do a walk through before the first day. Help them find their locker, classrooms and cafeteria. For working parents who can’t visit during daytime hours, consider driving by the school after work. Take a walk around the outside of the campus, look up information about the school online or spend time talking with your child about what the first day might look like.
• Identify kids biggest concerns
Ask your child what they’re most worried about and then help them find a way to address the issue by brainstorming ideas. Keep in mind brainstorming involves generating ideas. It’s not about fixing the problem for your children but helping them gain the skills to solve problems themselves. After discussing issues be sure to check in with your kids to see how they are feeling or how things are going with the transition.
Tips for helping kids when family has changed due to divorce or separation
When parents choose to separate or divorce over the summer, kids may be very worried about how those changes will affect school or what they will say to friends, teachers or coaches. What to do
• Help kids figure out what to say
Talk through what is acceptable for kids to say about your family situation. Ask them what they feel comfortable saying to their friends and teachers. If kids don’t know what to say, offer some suggestions. Work out a couple of short simple explanations that feel comfortable for them.
Examples: – My parents decided they would be happier living in different homes. – My Mom and Dad are separated so I have two homes now, one with my Mom and one with my Dad. – My family has changed this summer. My parents decided to divorce so we’re still working things out. If people ask why or kids feel uncomfortable with certain questions, let them know it’s okay to say, “Thanks for asking but I really don’t feel comfortable talking about it yet.”
• Inform school and teachers
Let teachers know things have changed in the family. If you have a set schedule that involves both parents doing pick ups and drop offs make sure the teacher/school know what the schedule is and have contact information for both parents.
• Keep the other parent in the loop
Don’t burden your children with the responsibility of providing the other parent with school related information or details about special activities/events. Remember even though your relationship has changed, your kids needs have not. Sharing information isn’t about making life easier for the other parent, it’s about making life easier for your kids.
• Let kids know they are not alone
Help children understand lots of families experience divorce. While it’s a hard change for a family usually with time things will get better. Keep communication open reassure kids they can ask questions or talk about feelings.
Tips for handling school pressure to keep up or have the best “things”
In today’s world, parents and kids alike are inundated with the pressure to have it all. It’s also not unusual for kids to associate material things with ideas like social status and acceptance. While there aren’t any quick fixes, there are ways parents can combat the drive to keep up or have the best “things”
• Help kids feel good about themselves
Get kids involved in activities, which make them feel good about themselves and allow them to build positive skills. Also engaging kids in opportunities to do for others can be extremely beneficial. Other ways parents can bolster self esteem is to offer constructive praise. For example, instead of saying “You’re so smart,” try “I can tell you worked really hard to study for that test, you must be proud of yourself.” Kids who receive constructive praise are more willing to take risks and have greater self-esteem.
• Let kids work for it
When it comes to material things don’t be afraid to set limits or have open discussions with your kids. If your children really want the greatest and latest, help them set a goal and work for it instead of buying it for them or caving into social pressure. For example, lets say Rachel wants a new iphone. If she has to save for it, you may find Rachel has a new appreciation for the value of money or perhaps she may have a change of heart and decide having a new iphone is overrated.
What are some of your suggestions for helping kids get ready for the upcoming school year?
As always, thanks for checking in!