By Regina Perez, MA Intern
Back to School Tips for a Successful School Year
It’s that time of the year again. Back to school marks the changing of another season—the end of summer days and the beginning of chillier months. It also presents a whole new reality for students, their parents, supporters, and educators. New classes, new routines, and new challenges mean that returning to school is a right of passage. It can feel like a really big deal!
Over the past few years, the familiar rhythms that normally help us to mark the passing of days, months, seasons, and even school grades have become blurred. The physical boundaries between home, school, work, and play have blended into one. Our way of life has radically shifted. Yet, despite all this, some things never change.
I can still remember the nervous excitement I felt as a child as I prepared for a new school year. Wondering who my teacher would be, if I would like them, and if I would have friends in my class. I remember the traditional back-to-school shopping trips: a new backpack, pencil case, and lunchbox.
Given what we have all been through recently, it is reasonable to expect some mixed emotions about going back to school. Many of us are still reeling from all the upheaval from the pandemic and grappling with continued uncertainty. Despite our best attempts to find a new normal, we are still vulnerable to a lot out of our control. It is normal to be feeling a bit wobbly as we start a new school year together.
Keep in mind, though, that this is not necessarily a bad thing. We are hardwired for struggle. And in our struggles, we have adapted and found innovative ways of showing up the best we can during this challenging season. We have persisted despite the hardships and changes. If living through a pandemic has taught us anything, we are resilient, and while we navigate the hard things, we can also do great things!
Back to School Tips: A Three-Pronged Approach
When thinking about back to school, some students are nervous while others eagerly await returning to the routines of their lives. The prospect of going back to school presents us with an opportunity to practice going back to basics to make sure that we are feeling as steady and ready as we can.
Helping our kids to cope with the inevitable emotional upheavals that any new school year presents has become even more critical these last few school seasons. It is important that we, as parents and caregivers, understand how to be emotionally available or present with our children. When brainstorming back to school tips for parents, I like to use a three-pronged approach that includes caring for the head, heart, and body.
Positive thinking goes a long way in helping us cope with transition and change. Give your kids a sense of control by modeling healthy, positive thinking. Affirming out loud what they are looking forward to and highlighting their strengths to succeed can help set our child’s minds at ease.
Emotionally attuning to what we may be feeling and validating those feelings is also key. Encourage open dialogue about how you both are feeling about the back-to-school transition. Let your child know it’s okay to miss home or be sad, worried, or unsure. Tell them that you will be missing them too while reinforcing what they can look forward to when they get home, like a special dinner or a family board game.
Staying connected through daily check-ins and spending intentional quality time whenever possible will go a long way in helping your child to feel emotionally secure. Together, you can set up a goodbye ritual or routine you follow daily. As part of this, remind them when you will see them next, as this can help create a container for their time away.
Our emotions live in our body, and we can only experience them through the sensations our body alerts us to. Becoming more aware of how, for example, anxiety feels in the body can go a long way in loosening its hold on us. We can help our kids cope by supporting them to develop body awareness for emotional regulation.
As a practice before bed or even amid big feelings as they occur during the day, ask your child to tell you where they can feel something in their body. Is it a rock or butterflies in their stomach? A tightness in their jaw? A lump in their throat? Learning how to tune into the sensations in the body gives us the power to work with big feelings.
We can take some slow, deep, calming breaths and imagine the air is reaching right to where the sensation is, or we can gently place our hands over the part of our body holding the emotion and send it some calm. We can also use the body to process and release feelings: Stomp feet, shake around, dance it out, or go for a walk. All of these body movements can help.
Hope for a Successful School Year
This school year, rise to meet the road that lies ahead with hope and curiosity about what is possible. Have compassion for yourself and the children, acknowledging what you have gone through and grown through. Let’s hope-forward together for a great school year.