By: Pamela Tippit, LPC-S
And just like that, it is BACK TO SCHOOL time!
This time of year can be very stressful, so I am giving mental health tips to help families start the school year smoothly. Give each of these tips a try at the beginning of the school year and year-round! They help give a foundation of positive skills to support mental health!
Start preparing for back-to-school early. As back-to-school approaches, parents and caregivers will start preparing their students by getting all the supplies on the school supply list and hitting the stores on tax-free weekends. But, it is just as important to mentally and physically prepare for back to school by getting back into routines.
With routines in mind, re-establish wake-up times. This should be done one to two weeks before the first day, especially for younger students new to school. This method will help minimize back-to-school stress in those initial weeks of school. Plus, resetting from those late nights binge-watching or scrolling takes the body a minute!
Give your children ample time to adjust to new settings. Have you got students with anxiety? If your student will go into a new environment at the start of school or struggles with being in the school environment, be sure they have and study their schedule, visit their new environment, and meet teachers before the first day. If there are any changes, new expectations, and/or routines if at all possible, they should be reviewed and/or introduced as much in advance of the first day as possible.
Practice time management skills. This skill is a MUST year-round! Time management practice is a soft skill that will serve students well throughout life. It may look like having all bags and lunches packed, and outfits picked out the night before. Or introduce setting the student's alarm to facilitate helping them learn to wake up independently, especially if age and developmentally-appropriate.
Talk to your child/children about any needs or concerns during the new school year. Each new school year brings a recent change. Do not assume that your student is ok. Ask! Even if you have high school or college-aged students, check in with them. Checking in with an older student could look like, "Are you good to start the school year? What, if any, concerns do you have or anticipate going into the year? On a scale of 1-5, how confident do you feel going back to school this year?" If something feels wrong, find your way to check in. Either way, do this, no matter the student's age!
Have minimal tech mornings. The minute I pick up my phone and check messages, 15 minutes disappear! Jumping on tech first thing in the morning is a surefire way to throw your morning routine off track. Try having the time between waking up, getting dressed, and having breakfast tech-free. Keeping the focus on low-stress mornings focused on successfully starting the day can make a big difference better, a chaotic or smooth start to everyone's day.
Find out their goals or what they are looking forward to during the new school year. Finding out what your student is excited about or wants to achieve each year is a fantastic way to strengthen your connection by understanding their hopes and goals and modeling active listening skills by receiving whatever that answer is, even if it is playing with or hanging out with friends! After all, school is one of the first places we learn to become social. Take this time to enjoy building a meaningful connection with your student!
Parents and caregivers practice all these skills too! Modeling healthy time management, sustainable nighttime and morning routines, and preparing for the next day, at least the night before, are all skills learned mainly through modeling. Modeling healthy habits, soft skills, and positive mental health practices will help your student develop habits that will serve them for a lifetime!
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