The start of another school year can create feelings of anxiety for children and added worry for any parent trying to set the child’s mind at ease. As the first day approaches, the experienced professionals at Laurie Grengs Counseling offer some beneficial ways to lessen those back-to-school blues.
BEFORE THE FIRST DAY
Safeguard yourself from dealing with an irritable youngster. At least a week before classes begin, institute a school-day routine regarding sleep and meal schedules. Help get your child accustomed to waking up early and eating at regular times throughout the day. Children who are well rested show improved mood and memory, which dramatically aides in attentiveness and ability to learn. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 9-11 hours of sleep each night for school-aged children.
Engage your child in simple assignments to prepare him or her for learning in a classroom setting once again. Set aside quiet time to read with your child or have him or her read aloud to you. Among many other advantages, reading out loud helps improve word recognition and diction. Also, have your child assist with a dinner or dessert recipe to make working with numbers delightful and delicious. Spending this important time together will strengthen your parent-child bond.
Friendships are very important for social and emotional growth as well as maintaining positive self-esteem. Arrange play dates with friends or neighbor children so your child can establish or re-establish loyal relationships. Children often have improved perspectives about school and learning when they feel supported with friends nearby.
Most importantly, converse with your child to discover any hesitation he or she may have about the first day of school. If your child is anxious, reassure him or her that you understand that new experiences can be intimidating. Being nervous is natural, but this new year will also bring exciting opportunities for adventure, knowledge, and fun. Encourage your child to focus on the positives and let him or her talk through any apprehension. Many times, expressing oneself to a trusted individual is its own catharsis.
DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR
Keep the lines of communication open by asking about your child’s day. Doing so on a regular – preferably daily – basis will keep you informed of what is happening at school and alert you if there are any learning or peer issues that should be addressed. Taking an interest in your child’s activities also will show that his or her well-being is important to you.
Healthy snacking habits start at a young age, and more than one-fifth of a child’s daily energy intake comes from snacks. If your child has an after-school snack, steer away from junk foods and make healthy options available. Offer fruit or a vegetable as well as a protein, whole grain, or glass of milk. Your child will feel satisfied and energized, and you can feel good about him or her learning to develop favorable eating habits.
After a busy day, every parent knows the importance of relaxation. The same holds true for children. Designate time for activities like reading, drawing, or putting together a puzzle to allow your child to decompress. This quiet period will have a calming effect while still providing stimuli for the mind.
Limit screen time with television or electronic devices, especially at night. The light emitted from cyber screens disrupts the release of melatonin, a natural hormone that promotes sleep. If your child plays a game or checks the internet before bed, he or she may have trouble falling or staying asleep. Make sure all devices are turned off one or two hours before bedtime to assure your child will get enough rest to be a productive student the following day.
Whatever routine you choose, worry need not be a part of it. If the anticipation of a new school year overwhelms you or your child, or if your child becomes withdrawn during the year, we encourage you to call and set up a consultation with Laurie Grengs Counseling. We can offer supportive, professional advice and help alleviate any school-year concerns.