The start of the new school year is a time for new beginnings: new teachers, friends, parents, sports, and education. As the school opens its doors to students, it’s important to remember that a new school year comes with a whole new set of experiences and emotions to be felt and heard. The first day, week or month might bring about anxiety or worry.
I like the idea of beginning to discuss the school year upon beginning to buy new school supplies. Preparation for school means buying school supplies, organizing schedules, packing lunches — and preparing emotionally for change and adjustment. You can start discussions at dinner about expectations and thoughts on meeting new classmates, new teachers, and adjustments to spending the day in a schedule.
Ask your elementary-school child, “What are your thoughts about the third grade? How can you begin to make new friends? What do you expect to do when you are feeling sad or missing home?” Teens might need a discussion about study habits and peer pressure, while the littler ones might need some direction on what to do if they are missing a parent.
Whatever your child’s age, it’s best to initiate honest conversations about how the school year will begin. These allow your child to open up and share feelings and thoughts about the first day, or maybe even the entire year. It might also help to discuss social skills and bullying before your child enters the classroom. Give her coping tools and a clear plan for what to do if she feels sad or hurt by another classmate.
It’s great to get the communication started before school starts, but even if your child is already in school, you still discuss problems or issues that could arise as the year gets into swing. Help your child become emotionally prepared by going over possible scenarios. For example, you could talk through how your child might feel about a new classmate, discuss what to do if she feels angry, practice social skills through role play, and explore what do if she’s anxious or nervous in class.
We need to do a better job at preparing children and teens to have a successful year not only academically, but emotionally. Open up discussion now about potential challenges at school, and guide your child to have a plan. The stability that these beginning-of-school conversations provide will help her to sail through the year with planning and communication.