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Going back to school is a stressful time for most families and children can feel a lot of anxiety. It is a time when your child will be more prone to cry, have temper tantrums, be irritable, and/or complain of headaches and stomach pains. It is also a time when getting out the door on time can seem an impossible feat. Putting back to school routines in place ahead of time and encouraging your child to talk to you about their fears, can greatly reduce the morning and bedtime struggles.
Here is a list of common back to school concerns you child may have:
Who will my teacher be? (This is the number one frequently asked question in my family.)
Will my friends be in my class?
Who will I sit with at lunch?
Are my clothes OK?
What if I miss the bus?
How will I get home after school? (This is a big worry for many children.)
Many of us automatically want to reassure our child not to worry. Instead, we may want to try encouraging them to solve the problem on their own.
This can be done by helping them problem solve and make a plan for any real or imagined difficulty they are worried about. Ask them questions such as “If ______ does happen? What could you do?” or “Let’s brainstorm some ways to handle that situation”. This provides you the opportunity to coach your child through the problem solving process, and will also give them the tools to cope with any future situations they encounter.
For getting out the door in the morning and getting your child to bed on time, routine charts are a very effective parenting tool.
Including your child (age 4 or older) in the routine creation process, and having them write it up themselves (if they are able and want to) is the key. When children are involved in the decision making and creation process, they are more likely to be accountable and to follow a routine. Also, it is helpful to start small by creating and practicing a morning routine first, before you create and implement an evening routine.
Here are the steps for creating routines:
- Sit down with your child at a time when you both are calm. Let them know that you have an idea that will help everyone get out the door easier each day. Let them know you would like them to help you put a routine chart together.
- Brainstorm a list of all of the things that need to be done to get out the door each morning.
- Allow your child to decide the order of each agreed upon task. For older children/teens, have them estimate how much time each item takes.
- For younger children, you can take photos of your child doing each activity, or they can draw/cut out a picture representing the activity. For older children/teens, if they would like, allow them to write up the list with times for each task (ex. 6:15 – 6:20 brush teeth). Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
- Place the completed list where they will see it each day.
- Instead of nagging, just refer to the routine chart by asking them what is next on their list.
- Try it out for a week and then sit down with them to discuss how it is working. Make changes to the routine if needed.
Put the back to school routine in place at least one week before school starts and have your child waking up, eating and going to bed at regular times. Have everyone in the family participate as well, so you can all adjust prior to the first day of school.
It takes time to establish a new routine. Even if your child follow the routine perfectly one week, they may not the next. If you find the routine is no longer working, or becomes outdated, simply sit down with your child to discuss (when you both are calm) and create a new one.
Other ways to make going back to school less stressful are:
- Plan a fun shopping trip to get new clothes and school supplies
- For older children, give them an alarm clock so they can be responsible for waking themselves up.
- Have your children plan their lunch menu for the week and include packing their own lunch in their routine. Generally, children ages 6 and older can pack their lunch, but there isn’t a set age. Younger children can assist you. This will require patience!
By empowering your child, you will be teaching them self care, independence, responsibility, problem solving, decision making, and the belief that they are capable.
I hope you find this information helpful,
Please comment below with any back to school tips you have!
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