By: Stephanie Lent
Back to school time. It’s filled with all types of emotions. Excitement, anticipation, and some nervous energy. As a mom of a child who has a diagnosed anxiety disorder, this time of year can be completely overwhelming. Here are some things I have learned on our journey to help set EVERYONE (you included) up for a successful return to the classroom.
1. Take your kiddo to the school BEFORE the first day back.
The public school system where we live allows families to set up a visit over the summer break. We can go in and look around when it is quiet and the hallways aren’t quite so noisy. We do this every single year, even though our children are familiar with the building. If your child’s school does not allow tours, you can still visit the campus or playground before that first day!
2. Talk and read about school.
There are so many wonderful books about school for young children. Show them photos of classrooms, reminisce about the great school memories from last year, and read books about the type of school your child attends. I remember when my youngest was about to enter kindergarten and insisted that she needed an umbrella and jacket added to her supply list. It took me a few days to realize that she believed that it was “kinder GARDEN” and she thought she would be outside every day all day in a garden.
3. Talk about the concept of time.
For young children, some of the nervousness can be as a result of not understanding when/if their grownup will return to pick them up. It can help to draw pictures of what their days might look like. We can use simple phrases to help them understand. For example, “you are going to eat lunch at school, but you will be home before dinner”.
4. Allow them to pick out a few special school supplies.
Maybe they can pick out a special friend to stay in their backpack or a pack of stickers that they can decorate notebooks with. Smelly pencils and fancy pencil boxes are always favorites in our home!
5. Write a letter (or email) to the teacher.
Help your child write a letter to their teacher. This is a great opportunity for them to express their worries and ask questions. In addition, this helps you to recognize the things they might be struggling with or what they are most excited about!
And a final thought for all of us who will be sending kiddos back to school this year:
The world is a little upside down right now. We all experience the emotions that go along with our children getting older and then add on whatever other feelings we have about sending them off to school each day. I could offer you the advice of giving yourself grace (and you should), but I want to give you something tangible…
This does not have to be on the first day of school, although I have scheduled it that way in the past. It doesn’t have to be expensive, although it has been in the past. Here are some ideas:
- Coffee and a podcast in a SILENT car
- A trip to your favorite store ALONE
- Lunch at your favorite place or takeout on your couch
- A new book and time to read it
- A daytime (think during school hours) date with a friend
- A NAP (set the alarm in time to get to that pick-up line)
Best wishes for a truly wonderful school year!!