It’s that time of year again! The pool days come to an end, summer camp is no more, and it’s time to pull out the back-to-school supply list. While the list may tell you exactly what your child will need in the classroom, knowing what your child needs emotionally to return to school may be harder to gauge.
As we wrapped up the strangest school year of our lives this past year, how can we prepare our children for this upcoming school year? I would first suggest talking to your child about how they are feeling, and really listen. Some children may be thrilled to go back to the classroom, while others may be struck with anxiety, fear of loneliness, terror of who to sit with at lunch, how to manage their schedules, etc. Our children may surprise us with how they are feeling, and it is important to be aware of this so we can best support them. Along with this, check in on how YOU are feeling. Maybe you feel thrilled to have your child out of the house and actually AT school, or maybe you feel fear or anxiety for the upcoming year. Children often pick up on our emotions and mirror these, so it is important to be aware of our own emotions, and handle them in an appropriate way to model to our children.
Many children may feel nervous if the environment is new, which is why helping your child be familiar with the school, teachers and schedules will help facilitate a smooth beginning to the year. This may include orientations, meeting the teachers, driving by the school to see where the bus picks up and drops off, and maybe practicing their new schedule of sleeping. If your child feels nervous about meeting other kids, try to find a way to encourage connections before the school year starts. If you go to a neighborhood school, perhaps encourage your child to play outside, or maybe there is a pre-school activity they could attend. The key to remember here is that you will not know which of these practices to implement unless you know how you and your child are feeling about the school year approaching! Of course, if all of these practices fall flat, consider counseling for your child. We have all been through a lot over the past 18 months, and some work with a trained professional could be exactly what your child needs as they start the year.
Now that you have soaked up the last few weeks of summer, you can prepare for a new and exciting school year ahead!