Whether your kids are in elementary school, high school, or college, going back to school is a transition that can affect the whole family. However, it doesn’t need to be filled with stress and anxiety. Here are a few tips to help your child stay calm and allow them to enjoy the experience of going back to school.
Get into a routine. It’s important for your child to get enough sleep, eat regular and healthy meals, and exercise every day. Start getting into the back-to-school routine a few weeks before school starts. Start going to bed and waking at regular times, and plan meals as you would during the school year. Your child’s mind and body will be able to tackle back-to-school worries more easily if he or she is rested and healthy.
Be positive. Encourage your child to be optimistic about the possibilities of the year ahead. The start of a school year is a great time to start over with a positive attitude. If she didn’t have excellent grades last year or had some drama with friends, now is the time to commit to making the most out of the new year. Encourage her to start something new—join a sport, club, or after-school activity to help her enjoy school more.
Talk to one another. It’s important to listen to your children and talk about the coming year. Ask your child about his fears and what has him worried. Don’t place added pressure on him during the conversation—you may want to talk when driving in the car, or waiting for food at a restaurant. For some children and teenagers, this is “casual” talk is less intense and allows them to open up.
Make a plan to help them cope. Many kids and young adults aren’t good at problem solving. Once you have heard their concerns, help them develop a plan to reduce their worries.
Have fun preparing for the new year. Create a list of school supplies and lunch items they want, and plan a fun shopping trip. If you have younger children going to a new school, take them to the playground at the school before the first day, so they can be more comfortable in the new school.
Plan the first week. Get ready for the school year by planning what your child will wear the first week. You can also plan fun events with friends for the first week of school, so he or she has something to look forward to. For a younger child, pack his or her backpack the night before and include a special toy or comfort item as reassurance and to help ease separation anxiety.
Stay calm. Children can pick up on your stress. Be confident and calm, so your children believe they can handle the start of the school year. When saying goodbye on the first day, say it cheerfully, and only say it once. Don’t reward any tantrums or protests if they attempt to stay home from school.
Schedule a wellness exam or physical before school starts. You may be able to help your children cope with stress, but you also want to make sure they are healthy to start the new year. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you add an annual wellness exam and sports physical to your back-to-school checklist.
If you don’t already have a family physician or pediatrician, it’s important to start that relationship when your children are young. Not only can your family doctor perform the annual wellness visit and keep your child up-to-date on vaccinations, if your child gets sick, you have someone that understands your child’s medical history.
Choose a doctor you are comfortable with, so he or she can follow your children's progress and development through the years. The relationship will be important as they grow older, and start to deal with adolescent issues such as drinking, smoking, drugs, sexual activity, and depression.
Getting ready for a new school year is hard work, but by following these simple tips you can make sure both you and your child start the year healthy and stress-free.
Dr. Osman received her medical degree from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is board certified in pediatrics and is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of the American Osteopathic Association. She practices with Mark Odorizzi, DO, at Susquehanna Pediatrics at South Williamsport, 6 E. Mountain Ave., South Williamsport.