Back to School: Supporting Your Child as They Return to the Classroom
It's that time of year again! Summer break is coming to a close, and we are all preparing to send our children back to school. Whether you are the direct caregiver, extended family, or educator of a child, you can make a significant impact on their confidence and overall mental health as they transition from the freedom of summer break back into the structure of the classroom.
From the little ones beginning preschool for the first time, to the teenagers attending their last first day of high school, and every student in between, the first days and weeks of school can be both exciting and stressful. As a supportive adult in a young person's life, here are a few ways in which you can uphold them at the start of this school year.
You may have heard the phrase before "more is caught than taught". Children are like sponges, and they pick up on the moods and actions of the adults around them. Set a positive example for your children on how to deal with stress by verbalizing your feelings in a healthy way and practicing positive coping skills to reduce the impact of stress. Model for them the ways in which you hope they can react in times of stress.
Children and adolescents spend a lot of their time following directions, and oftentimes they just need an adult to listen without judgment or correction. Ask them about the highs and lows of their day, encourage them to share freely, then put away your phone and be quiet. Allowing your child the space to speak openly and be heard can foster a sense of connectedness between you and your child, encouraging future openness and trust.
Pay attention to the feelings that your child is expressing, both verbally and nonverbally. You could reply to their verbal sharing with a response like, “Wow. You definitely had a hard time in math class today. I’m sure you’re feeling frustrated or discouraged”. You could also recognize feelings your child may be demonstrating nonverbally with a statement like, “Hey, you don’t seem like yourself today. I’m wondering if something at school has left you feeling tired or more down than normal”. Recognizing and validating how a young person feels, both in the home and the classroom, can empower them to accept and process their feelings in a healthy way.
Honor and celebrate your child, even in the little victories! A child may have the energy and ability to make the highest score on the test one day, and on another day for that same child, showing up and taking the test at all may be a huge win. Both of these accomplishments should be celebrated. Just as we can fall into ruts of low self-esteem as adults, children and adolescents often struggle with insecurities. Avoid comparing your child to others. Rather, celebrate their strengths and efforts, encouraging them to identify the areas in which they may need more support.
No matter what role you have in a child’s life, you have the opportunity to make a positive impact on their transition back into school. Let us support our young people this 2023-2024 school year with the tools they need for success, not only in academics, but in their emotional and mental health as well.
Check out these additional resources for even more ways you can encourage the children in your life this school year: