There is nothing like preparing for back to school to highlight the level of daily chaos busy families face these days. Coordinating all the activities, making sure everyone has the needed supplies, the anticipation of a new set of teacher guidelines, and ALL THE PAPER can make this an anxious time of year. What I think we can all agree on is that children sense our anxiety, stress, apprehension, and overwhelm.
The question I face every new school year is “how can I decrease family stress or tension?” I have found it comes down to two things: increased communication and empowering my children.
Through increased communication and an increased focus on a child’s self-esteem, you can easily help them mentally prepare for the new school year. In the process you will also draw your family closer together and teach your children a repeatable process for dealing with new situations.
Here are 5 Ways to Mentally Prepare Your Children for Back To School:
Focus on the positives
Whether your child is looking forward to seeing old friends or has anxiety about new situations, here are some questions to help them think more positively:
- What are you looking most forward to this school year?
- What new things would you like to try?
- What does your best day look like?
- What does a successful school year look like?
- What skill would you like to improve?
It’s not an inquisition. These are powerful questions designed to shift your child’s perspective and to create awareness. When speaking with my kids as we get closer to school, I simply incorporate these questions into our daily conversation. Try jotting down the answers so you can go back to your kids and follow up with them. This will show them you were listening and value their thoughts.
The start of the school year is an excellent time for kids to set some personal goals. Kids as young as 4 or 5 are capable of setting goals with assistance from an adult. Capping your kids around 3 goals will teach them to focus on the critical few. We focus on learning a new skill, improving a skill, overcoming a fear, and/or behaviors to encourage independence. New for us this year – we will be taking each child out to dinner individually to celebrate the new school year. We are going to use this time to talk about the goals they have for themselves and how we can help them achieve those goals. We will then discuss each family members goals at our Sunday night dinner.
Giving children control over their environment, where appropriate, is an important way to empower them. One way to do this is by asking them for input. Ask them to help you get organized for back to school. We review our morning routine together and determine what works and what might make sense to change. We do the same thing with our afternoon routine. Ask your kids how they like to work. Do they like to do their homework together at the kitchen table or do they want to use their rooms? By the time we are done, they will have established routines that work for them giving them greater motivation to stick with the plan. Don’t forget to capture all their routines into various checklists making easy to follow templates.
Celebrate Traditions or Make New Ones:
We like to celebrate the fall and all of the traditions we have established over the years. Knowing fun things are on the fall schedule goes a long way in reframing attitudes about the start of the school year. Plan some family fun and communicate it in the weeks leading up to school to get your kids excited and feeling festive.
If you don’t already have regular family meetings, consider adding them to your weekly routine. We have busy schedules and during the week it can be hard to stay connected to one another. We make sure to always have Sunday dinner together and use it as the platform for our family meetings. I find you only need 10 minutes to review the prior week and rundown the upcoming week. We find our family meetings the most helpful during times of transition like starting a new school year.
The family meeting is a great way to plan “chaos-free” time to focus on your family’s core values and give your children a sense of routine.
How do you help your children mentally prepare for back to school?