Social and Emotional Strategies for a Successful Start to the School Year
By Jessica Lodato, Rye Youth Council Youth Educator
Make good use of these last days before school by brainstorming, getting back into realistic bedtimes, and giving summer a proper sendoff.
For parents of school-age children nothing puts a stamp on the passage of time like the beginning of a new school year. Whether your child is heading into kindergarten or rounding out the last years of high school, September can be bittersweet.
Longer days and lax bedtimes seem as though they all just arrived yesterday, but here we are ramping up again for the start of September. For some parents, that ramping up can be exciting, and for others it can feel daunting and stressful. As parents, there are so many thoughts and to-dos flying through our heads — from forms to fill out to school supplies and scheduling. Maybe your child struggled last year, and trepidation is mixed with hope for a better experience. Maybe your children are extracurricular rock stars and you can already feel the steering wheel in your hands, brain swarming about how you will manage shuttling them around. There are some parents who absolutely can’t wait for the school year to begin. I love running into these parents, with their energy and enthusiasm. If you are feeling melancholy about the last days of summer, find these parents because their enthusiasm for getting back to routine and structure can be contagious.
Whichever space you occupy as a parent, it is all good. A great social and emotional way to help you and your family get ready for that first day of school is to gently open the dialogue about the upcoming year. Kids, too, are excited, nervous, and filled with all sorts of ideas and expectations that we may not even realize until we start talking. That’s why it’s important to “check in”.
Check in on Feelings
Ask your child how he/she feels about the beginning of the school year. Listen seriously and validate what is shared. And feel free to share back! Sharing things you look forward to or might be concerned about (within reason) is a great way to give them a sense of comfort. It reinforces that you are a team in the year ahead.
Talk About Changing Friendships
Find a gentle opportunity to talk about what your child can expect friendship-wise when back to school. It is good to ease kids into the possibility of changes in relationships and the idea about how to share friends with other children and have friends overlap. This shouldn’t be a deep conversation. It is just a great seed to plant.
Come Up with Strategies
Helping kids develop strategies to minimize anxiety gives them tools to feel more confident. Oftentimes, kids simply need their feelings validated. They don’t need or want us to fix anything for them, but they can use a bit of assistance in figuring things out. Helping a child brainstorm and develop strategies is a great experience for both parent and child. It is a team approach that fosters growth and self-confidence for the child and in return the parent, too. Some strategies include:
- Practice “conversation starters” to meet new friends.
- New school? Visit the school and have a look around or maybe practice drop-off.
- Practice deep breathing if unexpected jitters come up.
Check Your Personal Parental Climate
It can be easy for us to pass our stress on to our children without even realizing it. So, it’s good to check in with ourselves and have strategies of our own to manage our stress. It is also important to try to not stretch ourselves too thin.
Get Physically Prepared
These last few weeks are a great opportunity for us to return to realistic bedtimes because sleep and being well-rested helps us to psychologically cope with the world around us. Being tired is like walking around with sunglasses of fatigue on.
Find a way to give summer the appropriate sendoff it deserves! Maybe it’s spending a great day at the pool or a BBQ. Have a “Last Night of Summer Firefly Catching Competition” . . . be creative.
cheers you’ve been great
another Fall approaches
with wonderful memories to create!
Looking forward to seeing you all in September. Until then have fun! And if you do catch fireflies, please remember to let those little critters go.
The Rye Youth Council is a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes the social and emotional health and mental well-being of Rye’s children, teens, and young adults by engaging, educating, and empowering them in partnership with families, schools, and community. To learn more, visit www.ryeyouthcouncil.org.