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Successful back to school transitions, a family affair

October 13, 2018

The beginning of a new school year brings with it changes for children and parents alike. Getting to bed on time, getting up on time, activities before and /or after school, homework, new friends, new teachers, etc. And so begins the list of challenges that families face as school is in session again.

Today’s families confront immense pressure to be busy on an individual and family level. Importantly, deliberate, Intentional parenting can help children to develop time and emotion management skills that will improve their academic experiences and yours. Some skills involved with intentional parenting include:

Prioritize: Urgent or important: Identify priorities for the family and each individual. Use this as a hierarchy for decision making. Don’t overschedule. Schedule time for what’s most important, including homework and follow through on family fun.

Manage your own fears: Children, especially young children are keenly aware of the emotions of the adults in their lives. If a parent feels like a failure if their child’s first day of school outfit is not as cute as someone else’s, or fears being a failure as a parent because their student’s academic or extra-curricular performance is not at the top of the class, then that parent’s child will feel that pressure and feel inadequate if they fall short of that expectation.

Schedule breaks: Children and caregivers need breaks to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Parents can use their scheduling power to schedule breaks when they are most useful for the child. Breaks can be individual or fun activities together. Physical activities are a great way to release stress. Breaks may also be time to relax and decompress. Use caution with the use of electronics as a break for children as this may result in arguing when break time is over.

Set them up for success: Being challenged is good for children. However, confidence building occurs when children see success and feel successful. Structure activities in such a way that they feel comfortable and confident enough to embrace even bigger challenges.

Listen to your child’s fears: Being listened to provides validation and builds parent/child connection. At least weekly spend one-on-one time with each child.

Support the teachers: A child’s interaction with their teacher is critical to a positive learning environment. Demonstrating approval of and appreciation for the teacher’s effort and ideas increases a child’s confidence in their own ability to learn and their desire to listen and respect the teacher’s guidance.

Beginning school is a challenge for each child from kindergarten to 12th grade (and beyond). It is the opportunity for parents and caregivers to support children as they improve their academic abilities and develop the confidence necessary to face challenges.

Shannon Brown, LCSW, is a bilingual behavioral health provider for Health West in Chubbuck, American Falls and Aberdeen.

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