As I opened the newspaper this morning, the Back to School Ads were the first thing that I saw. I can’t believe it is already time for summer to wind down and a NEW school year to start. Although summer can feel long for those of us with special needs children who thrive on structure, going back to school has its own set of challenges.
As the new school year approaches, the thoughts from your child’s last school year may enter your mind. If the year was a good one, the new school year can bring your child excitement about seeing friends, finding out who their teacher will be, and getting to go shopping for new clothes. But if school is a challenge, those back to school ads may trigger fears and anxieties about new teachers, difficult classes, seeing other students who may have caused hurt feelings, and more. Our children can get stressed about grades, schedules, social media, and so much more.
If your child struggled last year and summer was a welcomed reprieve, set your child’s expectations to make this year their best one yet. As the name suggests, it is a New Year. You can work with your child to make New Year’s resolutions for the start of the school year just like you do in January.
Here are some suggestions for BACK TO SCHOOL Resolutions!
- Be organized. Does your child start the year with a clean backpack and supplies, but as the year progresses, their backpack and binder are a mess, filled with crumpled papers? Make a goal for this year to be different. It is easier to keep things organized when they never get messy. Help your child create a system where everything has its place - sections of the binder are labeled, each pocket of the backpack has a purpose, etc. Set a time each week when your child is responsible for ensuring that everything is still organized and clean, throwing out unnecessary papers, and filing away what is needed for review. This can be the same time when they are doing homework, at the end of the week, or even Sunday evening before bed. It is important that your child take ownership of this project, and that you help out only as needed.
- Reset and resist social media. The increased use of social media has created added anxiety for many children and teens. Kids are constantly worried about what their friends are doing, whether they are included, or if they measure up. Discuss this with your kids and encourage them to try and set limits on how much time they spend on social media during the school week. Have them resolve to limit their phone usage until after they have finished homework. You can encourage this by setting incentives and rewarding them if they are able to limit their social media screen time.
- Start fresh. If you child struggled with their grades or friendships last year, help them resolve to start fresh this year. They should not dwell on what happened last year. If you see them starting to worry, just let them know it is a clean slate, remind them you have confidence in them, and that it is OK to always ask for support. Teach them to be their best advocate, and to reach out to you or their teacher, a counselor, or another trusted adult if they feel they need extra help. As your child gets older, they are going to need to be able to know when they need help and how to ask for it rather than relying on their parent to ask for them.
- Embrace mindfulness. Everywhere you look these days, people are talking about mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being present and not being judgmental of oneself, which helps you worry less and stay relaxed. By resolving to practice mindfulness techniques for the new school year, your child can stay more relaxed and focused and hopefully have a productive and improved year. Some mindfulness techniques include meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, and body scanning.
Trying just one of these should help ease anxieties as the new year begins. Have another idea? Let us know in the comments below.
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Tracy Greenberg is a mental health writer and advocate; in addition to her work for Sheppard Pratt, she volunteers for NAMI and the Crisis Text Line. Tracy is also a swim mom, mother, and wife, and is passionate about yoga, nature, and the Florida Gators. Follow along with Tracy at her blog.