It feels as if the summer has barely even started by the time we have to start talking about going back to school. There's a good reason for that though—for all the excitement that comes with a new school year, there's also plenty of opportunities for students and their families to be confronted with new challenges, fears, and other stressors. But this year, you can get ahead of that stress for both you and your family. Here are some strategies that you can use to prepare you and your family for the coming school year.
Make a Habit of Listening
One of the most important things you can do to make sure you are managing your children's stress is to make sure they know they can talk to you about it. This can be accomplished rather simply.
For example, a simple "What went on today at school?" during the drive home or while you're at the grocery store can help begin a conversation. And don't just take their word for it, use non-verbal cues to monitor how they are feeling. Finally, don't press them for answers. Allow them to share things at their own pace. You don't want them to feel as if they are being interrogated, they want to know you are a safe place to unburden themselves.
Establish a Morning Routine
Starting your day off on the right foot can have an important role in how that day is going to proceed. If you wake up late, skip breakfast (and the nutrition that comes along with it) and have to hurry out the door, all of that stress will be carried with you.
Allow your mornings to be a reflection of how you would like your and your family's day to go. Create more time by preparing for breakfast the night before and getting everyone to bed at a decent hour. This will allow you to be sure everyone is up in time to enjoy eating together. Talk about the issues you will be facing over the course of the day, and invite others to share their plans. If you project confidence in tackling your day, they will feel more confident in tackling theirs.
It may be a good idea to get into this routine before the school year even starts. Try to take some time to establish your routine in the weeks before the first day - it will make the transition easier on everybody.
Establish an Afternoon Routine, But Keep it Flexible
Homework is an expectation for many school systems. In order for students to achieve, it will be important that time is made for them to tackle their homework, and creating space for them to do so will be important in managing their stress.
With that being said, creating an environment that is too structured can do more harm than good. In order to keep balance, you will want to also allow for unscheduled time at home or in the outdoors. Both playtime and winding down are essential for any individual to be able to tackle their week. By allowing for time when your children can choose how they can spend it, it will give them agency, which is a step in the right direction for feeling empowerment.
Know Where to Go for Help
For both yourself and your child, there is no need to go it alone. There are many resources that you can reach out to find support. Whether that's from your community, your family, or the school and school system. Get to know them. It will be much easier to call in support from a teacher, neighbor, or guidance counselor if you do.
If you are looking for medical consultation, begin by speaking with your general physician. You can use Augusta Health's provider search to see who is available in the area.
No matter what sort of stressors you have coming your way in mid-August, we hope these steps can help you feel better prepared for their arrival. Remember that you are not alone. By creating time for your family to be together, and by being aware of the other resources available in your community, you can all be better prepared for what comes. And remember that your local hospital is one of those resources!