As summer camps wind down and scorching August marches onward, schools across Miami- Dade County beacon refreshed (and bored) children back to the classroom. But as back to school anxieties start to swirl, parents can help children address concerns rationally, embrace academic adventures and ensure the most positive return to school for fall 2022.
Celebrate Back to School Season: Play detective at the Sherlock Holmes exhibit at Frost Science Museum. Behold LEGO masterpieces at Fairchild Garden. Hit the mall to purchase that ice blue unicorn lunchbox. In Scholastic’s “Eight Tips to Prepare for First Days of School,” teacher Heather O’Connor recommends that parents establish August rituals to foster excitement. Get literary and let kids pick out or check out new books in various genres such as poetry, graphic novels, historical fiction and biographies. Children under 5 can get monthly free books through The Children’s Trust Book Club. “Refreshing their library at the start of the school year can be an annual tradition with the intention of starting anew and resetting your child’s mindset.”
Make New School Year Resolutions: In “Setting Goals for a New School Year,” on pbs.org, Jodie Fishman writes about her family’s New School Year’s Eve as time to make resolutions. “Encourage your child to embrace a new experience,” whether a new after-school club or new book genre. And stretch yourself. “The small goal of taking a risk and talking to someone new can have big rewards. This goes for parents too: Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher, parents of your child’s classmates or even the principal.”
Also, consider family goals like resolving to take a walk after dinner three nights a week. “Show your children the importance of setting goals by doing it together.”
Then prepare a stress management routine. “Talk about what their triggers might be and how they can cope in a healthy way. Could they take five minutes to cool off when something doesn’t go their way?” reflects Fishman.
Ease Jitters: Books on new school year nerves can also comfort jittery back-to-schoolers. “Ask them what they are looking forward to, what they are interested in learning, along with any concerns they might have,” writes Scholastic. “As a parent you can minimize fear of the unknown by being positive about school.”
Brainstorm Solutions: For children with serious school resistance, raisingchildren.net.au recommends clearly define the issue and brainstorm possible solutions together. Establish predictable routines and prepare uniforms, lunches and backpacks the night before. And "Stay calm. If your child sees that you’re worried, stressed or frustrated, it can make your child’s anxiety worse.”
Face Your Fear: Licensed clinical psychologist at Jackson Health Natasha Pouloupoulos advises to reframe anxious thoughts, showing how multiple feelings can coexist and anxiety is manageable. For example, validate a child’s fear of getting sick at school but also show ways to take steps to stay healthy.“Listen attentively, show empathy, correct any misconceptions, provide support and validate their feelings,” she says. “Also, ensure your family focuses on basics such as healthy eating, sleeping and adaptive separation for parents. As your kid reenters the world, setbacks and distress will occur and these are opportunities to learn coping strategies including diaphragmatic breathing, mindfulness, short breaks and walking.”
Write Through It: The Kidshealth.com article “What To Do If You Don’t Like School,” it suggests kids try writing down school dislikes then a second list of all the good. “What can you change on the ‘don’t like’ list? Would remembering to do your homework help you to feel more confident if you’re called on in class? …Could you find a way to show off your special interests and talents? If you made just one new friend would you feel less alone?”
Get a Head Start: Jeff Hayward in activebeat.com recommends for younger kids to arrange playdates, reduce screen time and try crafts together to get back in learning mindset. And do some home practice on challenging academics. “Giving them a little push can help them feel more confident in their abilities.”
As children prepare for the big first day, O’Connor encourages parents to ask children what they really want to learn about in school. “Ask your child what they already know and what they wonder about. Your child can research the topic to be an expert.”