Your Kids Are Ready For School. But Are you?
A child psychologist gives advice to parents to help with new year
You’re holding your child’s hand on your way to the first day of school. The squeeze on your hand is tighter than usual. Then suddenly your little one sees a friend, smiles, releases your grip and you watch them run to school together without a care in the world.
Everything is great.
But then you notice a tear in your eye. Suddenly, you realize your child isn’t the one nervous about going back to school. It’s you.
The back-to-school transition can be stressful for many parents, and the reasons are valid.
For example, knowing that your child struggles with change can increase your own feelings of tension.
You may worry that your child will struggle to fit in with peers and make friends.
Maybe your child had a bad experience at day care or a previous school year, leaving you both with lingering anxiety.
Some parents are concerned that schoolwork or a tight schedule may be too difficult for their child or that a teacher will not understand their child's unique needs.
Maybe, you’ve waited until the last minute and just aren’t ready. The need to buy new clothes and school supplies may cause concerns about finances, and a steady stream of demands on your time can leave you feeling pressured and stressed.
Plus, there’s just the feeling that your young child is growing up too darn fast.
If you are stressed about your child's return to school, you may wonder if you should share your concerns. Sam McCage, clinic manager of Behavioral Health Services in Fort Worth and a licensed psychologist, says that could be a mistake. Your child looks to you for signs that school is fun, exciting and safe and not something to fear, so it's important to discuss school in an upbeat and encouraging way.
"Recognize that children will sense your anxiety and their own will increase if you express your anxiety too much," McCage said. "If they ask about your concerns, tell them that you are excited for them and confident they will do well."
McCage reminds parents that "it's normal to feel anxiety about your child going back to school, but he says there are strategies to help you effectively manage your stress.
Here's how you can calm your concerns and enjoy this annual adventure with your child.:
- Visit the school and connect with your child's teacher and other school staff.
- Make arrangements for car pools, play dates and after-school care well in advance.
- Be patient and give the teachers time to develop a relationship with your child.
- Make sure you have realistic expectations about how your child should perform in school and extracurricular activities.
- Talk with other parents about how they handle their anxiety.
- Use humor to diffuse the stress.
- Schedule fun family activities with your children.