Back to school season is just around the corner. If your child is expressing some nervousness or trepidation about starting school or hitting the hallways once more, that’s totally normal – but those feelings can be difficult to deal with, both for your child and for you.
The magic of children is that they’re always experiencing new things, from first days of school to changing friendship dynamics to learning big concepts and small skills. You as a parent or guardian are majorly instrumental in this growth; to help your child navigate the world confidently, provide them with the tools they need to handle ups and downs and take on new situations with positivity and purpose.
Give them the lowdown on what to expect.
This is particularly effective for younger children; for example, if they’re going to the dentist for the first time, give them a complete overview of what’s going to happen from the minute you check in to the end of the exam. When they feel prepared and understand the flow of a situation, they’ll be less likely to be scared or act out. Even just giving them a quick pep talk overview when you’re heading to run errands, setting up a play date, or visiting unfamiliar family members can be super helpful.
Encourage their curiosity.
Children are by nature curious beings. Encourage their interest when you’re trying something new! Let them ask questions or watch relevant videos or shows. Give them books to read about the situation they’re prepping for. Have them talk to friends or family members who have done something similar. Knowledge is power!
Keep up or establish routines.
Many kids thrive on routine, especially when it’s time for big life changes like starting school. In the weeks leading up to said event, establish routines that help them prepare; for example, work together to figure out a back to school routine that makes sense for both parents and children, from setting out clothes the night before to placing essential items in the same spot every day. Create a bedtime routine that encourages relaxation and calm so they feel well-rested the next morning.
Do it together.
Make it a family affair and try something new together, like rock climbing, a cooking or painting class, whatever! Your child is looking to you as a model for how to navigate a new situation, so when you attempt something together, they get a firsthand example of how to react on their own.
Let them share their feelings.
Encourage your child to share how they’re feeling, from excitement to nervousness to anger or fear. Maybe they’re sad summer is ending; acknowledge that feeling and let them work through it, then try to reframe the end of summer and beginning of fall as something to look forward to, with leaf jumping and trick-or-treating on the horizon. If your child is frustrated they’re not immediately succeeding at soccer or the saxophone, let them be upset, but remind them that it takes practice to master a skill. If you have older children, give them a notebook they can write out their emotions in.
Children are receptive and easily pick up on your energy, so when you’re encountering a new circumstance yourself (or together!), do your best to keep a cool head and handle things as calmly as possible. Be a good example and they’ll see you as a resource to help them handle the hard stuff.