August 11, 2023

Preparing Children for Back-to-School Season

by Dr. Khrisan Gosai, Elliot Behavioral Health Services

For many kids, August feels like timeless summer, with soaring temperatures and trips to favorite lakes or beaches during days that never end. Around this time, parents start thinking about the transition to the next academic year and the challenges this may bring.

Parents can take steps to help mentally prepare kids for the next academic year and reduce challenges which can lead to boredom, behavioral problems, and anxiety. Keep reading for a road map to help navigate this transition and develop on-going habits that can prepare children for future changes experienced throughout life.

 Get Back on Schedule

Though children may be getting the same amount of sleep, waking up progressively later in the summer can result in a reduction in the amount of sunlight experienced in the morning. A dose of morning sunlight can kickstart important bodily processes which reset circadian rhythm, help you get back on a school year schedule, and fall asleep better in the evening. Since mood and anxiety can also be impacted, it is important to understand that the timing of sleep is important for both physical and mental health.

Making a gradual change now to acclimatize kids closer to their school schedule can make the entry back to the next year easier for everyone.

Reflect On What Went Well Last Year

The start of another school year can bring worries about how the coming year will play out. As anxiety and worry tend to be future-focused, it can be helpful for kids to reflect about how last year went. It is not a case of simply cherry-picking the good bits from the previous year, but when we worry about the future, our minds tend to fixate on the negatives. It is healthier to think about the experience in a more balanced way.

Taking time to reflect on all the little wins from last year or the fact that students can expect a lot of familiar things in the new year can help rebalance their mindset.

Prepare for the Future

The summer can be a great time to practice emotional skill building or different ways of going about usual routines like bedtimes, the transition off screens, or getting ready in the morning. If kids are on medications or seeing a therapist, the summer can also be a time to adjust behavioral strategies or medications without impacting the academic year.

It is helpful for kids to learn that there are inevitable changes in our lives that we have no control over, such as changes in seasons or development such as puberty. Just like when we see our neighbors putting on their snow tires in November, it is helpful to teach kids that we can prepare for change and that doing so is a great way to reduce the stress in our lives, allowing us to function better both at school and home.

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