By Jennifer Heggie, LPC-S, NCC
It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over and school is getting ready to be back in full swing. For most kids, summer is about swimming, summer camp, family vacations, and rest and relaxation. The start of a new school year means the end of summer fun and free time. If most kids had it their way, summer would last forever. Starting a new school year can be tough on both kids and parents. Kids may feel anxious about starting a new school year, going to a new school, social situations, finding out who their teachers are, and if their friends will be in their class. Many parents may also feel anxious about their children starting a new school year—facing a more rigorous academic year, paying for back-to-school supplies, uniforms, backpacks, and possibly tuition—while continuing to manage the household.
Getting back into the swing of school can be a jolt of reality for both parents and kids. School represents commitment, which often increases stress because there never seems to be enough time in the day. Kids have homework plus extracurricular activities such as cheerleading, football, swim team, band, karate, choir, clubs, dance, church and many more after school activities. Parents have carpool, packing lunches, preparing dinner, helping with homework, parent/teacher meetings, church, and still finding time for themselves.
Here are a few tips to help get through the back-to-school blues:
- With younger kids, practice the first day of school routine. Help your child get into a sleep routine before the first week of school so the initial shock of waking up early won’t be so bad.
- Organize things at home for school. Lay out clothes/uniforms the night before, have backpack and lunch or cafeteria money packed, which will help mornings go more smoothly. Have a healthy breakfast to keep kids energized throughout the day. Let kids organize their own homework space since what works for you might not work for them.
- Talk through feelings and anxieties with your kids. Whatever issues your child has about returning to school, talk about it, and listen to them. Normalize their concerns and put a positive spin on your child’s fears. Philippians 4:13 states, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”.
- Create a family calendar and place it in a common area of the house such as the kitchen. Highlight upcoming events, football games, school events, and church activities so each family member is aware of what they need to do each day. The night before, talk about the next day’s activities with everyone; then in the morning remind everyone of that day’s calendared activities. Keeping everyone connected increases a child’s self-esteem and sense of security.
- Talk to your children daily about how their day was at school. Listen to what they learned; what they did fun that day, and also listen to what they are not saying. You can learn a lot from your kids with their non-verbal cues and their body language. Encourage your child to communicate with you by asking open-ended questions.
- Write notes to your child and place in their backpacks or lunch bags. I still remember the notes my mom would write on my napkins and place in my lunch encouraging me on a test, softball game, tennis match, praying for me, writing a scripture verse, or just wishing me a good day.
- Pray and attend church. Young people spend the majority of their waking hours in school—more than in church or at home. Schools have a huge impact with children’s attitudes, thinking, and ideas about themselves, the world, and God. It behooves each of us—whether we have children in school or not—to pray daily for a specific child, as well as for their school. Encourage your children to attend church activities regularly.
Back-to-school blues usually resolve in a week or two after the start of a new year. While the fun and sun days of the summer may be coming to an end, there are plenty of new adventures ahead to pursue. Don’t let the reality of the school year routine get you and your children down.
Remember, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him; and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Just think, before you know it, the holidays will be here!
Jennifer Heggie has 10 years clinical experience working with addictions, eating disorders, self-injury, depression, anxiety, self-esteem, body-image issues with clients of all ages. 601.949.1949.