A new school year comes with feelings of anticipation and apprehension, for children and parents alike. Aside from the practical aspects, such as buying back-to-school supplies and clothes and, in some cases, paying tuition, many parents worry about their children starting a new school, facing a more rigorous academic year or dealing with difficult social situations. Often the fear of the unknown--from the fear of math class to the lunchroom mystery meat--creates stress on families in the weeks leading up to the start of school.
According to Dr. Lynn Bufka of the American Psychological Association, it's a time when parents may need to be extra vigilant. "While trying to manage work and the household, parents can sometimes overlook their children's feelings of nervousness or anxiety as school begins.Working with your children to build resilience and manage their emotions can be beneficial for the psychological health of the whole family."
Celebrate the Event: In many cultures, the beginning of a new school year is cause for celebration. Indian children get special gifts on the first day of school known as praveshanotshavan. In Germany, children receive a Zuckertuete, or large paper cone, decorated and filled with chocolates, candies, school supplies, and other surprises. Consider a special trip to the store for a new back-pack or lunch box. Alternatively, plan a Back-to-School dinner. For additional back-to-school celebration ideas, click here.
Practice School Routines: Families need time to adjust to school schedules after summer. Start getting your child back in the habit of going to bed, rising and eating meals at set times. Organize things at home--backpack, binder, lunchbox or cafeteria money--to make the first week go smoothly. Have healthy, kid-friendly lunches that will energize your child throughout the day. To quell any fears of going to a new school consider:
• Walking the route to school with your child, or to the bus stop if they will be taking the bus.
• Exploring the school building and visiting your child's locker and classroom to ease anxiety about the unknown.
• Attending the school's open house so the youngster can meet the teacher and other students in a relaxed setting.
Talk it Through: Acknowledge the anticipation and anxiety. Let your children know that you are aware of what they're going through and that you will be there to help them through the process. The APA says nerves are normal, and advises parents to highlight that not everything that is different is necessarily bad. Encourage children to face their fears rather than avoiding them. Certain topics are tougher to address but very important. Examples include:
• Discuss bullying: What it is, that it's unacceptable and how to stand-up to it safely.
• Explore the idea of competitiveness--how it can build self-esteem and motivate or do the opposite.
Homework Rules: Some of the biggest challenges come once school starts. Establish a non-negotiable, daily homework time and a quiet place for study. Some children do as well on the living-room floor as they do at a desk in the bedroom, but some don't. Figure out what works best and stick to it. And show interest in your child's education. "How was school?" will likely get little more than an "OK." Instead, ask about the day's math lesson or problems on a dreaded test. Know the books being read, the papers being written, the projects being assigned, and discuss them when the opportunity arises.
What better way to stay busy than by doing something you love? That hobby you've been toying with could be your prescription for a healthier, more satisfying life. Hobbies can engage you physically and mentally. People who have a hobby "are generally healthier," says Peter Lichtenberg, Ph.D., director of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University. "We also know they are at a lower risk for depression and dementia. The great value of hobbies is they're a way for people to stay engaged on multiple levels." Here are some ideas you might consider to get started: READ MORE