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Emotionally Preparing for Back to School

As educators, we are very sensitive to the emotions surrounding the beginning of the school year, ranging from uncontained excitement and anticipation, to fear and anxiety about the unfamiliar.  For some, it is their first experience in a school setting; but even for those returning after the summer, the occasion is charged emotionally.

At school we are ready to welcome students and to support them as they adjust to the changes in their routine, and to the new relationships that await them. This time of discovery and new beginnings is such a wonderful one.

For parents, there are a number of ways to support children leading up to the first day of school.  I recently read an article from David McMillan entitled, Relationships: Preparing kids emotionally for school.  In it Mr. McMillan provides practical suggestions for supporting children, including the following:

  • Lead by example. When your kids talk about the emotions they are feeling about going back to school, do more than just let them talk and express their emotions. Try to get them talking about specifics about what they’ve enjoyed most during the summer and what they’ll miss. It is especially important for them to talk about what they may be nervous about in the coming school year and what they’re looking forward to. I encourage parents to offer the same of themselves; talk to your kids about how you feel about the transition, how you remember feeling at their age, and what you did then and do now to get yourself mentally ready for the coming school year.
  • Acknowledge mixed emotions. As the summer winds down and kids express disappointment or anxiety about the coming school year, it’s very easy to fall into the category of either “you don’t mean that! School is wonderful,” or “I’m dreading it, too.” It’s helpful to admit all sides of emotions — anxiety for the start of school, even though there may be parts they are really looking forward to, and missing the slower pace and summer fun.
  • Offer support and reassurance. Children need specific support and reassurance during transitions. The start of school is a new year, full of possibility, but also full of unknowns. Children need reminders and reassurances they are going to be OK and they will have parental support no matter what. Even children who love school and do well can benefit from this type of assurance.
  • Structure rules, expectations and consequences. Get clear with your children before the school year begins what your expectations are of them during the coming school year. Set a daily structure that can be followed throughout the school year that involves coming home, getting their homework, doing chores and daily rest.
  • Consistency. Follow a schedule as much as possible. Consistency is reassuring and motivating, especially for younger children. Follow an early morning and bedtime routine.

Going back to school is an important milestone in a child’s life.  Share in the excitement and create a memorable experience that they may one day share with their own children.

To read Mr. McMillan’s full posting from the Shreveport Times, please follow click here.


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