Even though it’s technically still summer, the transition back to school is here. The long days and relaxed schedules are already turning into anxious bedtimes and stressful homework sessions for those with school aged children. But don’t stress. I sat down with an integrative health coach to find out what parents can do at home to ensure a healthy beginning to a new school year.
As a parent, you can’t always protect your kids from school stress, but research has shown you can help young students develop healthy strategies to cope with stress at home.
Data from the NICHD Study of Early Childcare and Youth Development has shown that children with positive parental involvement that provide continuity between home and school can have enhanced social functioning and fewer behavior problems.
5 ways parents can help their kids handle back to school stress at home
Integrative health coach Elaine Hernandez-Martins, a graduate of Duke University’s Integrative Health Coach Professional Training Program, has broken down 5 ways parents can help their kids handle back to school stress at home.
Try and establish routines both in the morning and evening, says Hernandez-Martins.
In the evening, enforce a bedtime. Setting a bedtime can improve sleep quality and quantity for kids, according to a growing body of research. Meanwhile not getting enough sleep affects children’s behavior, memory, attention, and emotional well-being, researchers said.
Use the evening to make the mornings less stressful.
“Put focus on planning for the next day. For example, help your child to lay out his or her clothes and pack their backpack the night before. This can help ease morning tensions.” says Hernandez-Martins.
If you are a working parents worried about getting yourself and kids out the door in time in the morning, Hernandez-Martins says to try setting out breakfast items and preparing school lunches and snacks after the kids have gone to bed. If you know your child isn’t a morning person, Hernandez-Martins says it can be better to have your child wake a few minutes early so things are less rushed heading out the door.
MAKE CHECKLISTS ROUTINE
Another idea Hernandez-Martins says can be great is creating a chart along with your child of all the things they need to complete after school, before bedtime, and in the morning.
“Little white boards with erasable markers work well,”says Hernandez-Martins.
Hernandez Martins tells me you should have kids be the ones to check off the completed items so they are able to better able understand the series of tasks and can feel a sense of accomplishment.
“Kids are never too young or old to learn organization and preparation. My son who is now 27 years old still has his “To Do” list written out each day with a check off box after each task,” says Hernandez Martins.
DESIGNATE A STUDY AREA AT HOME
Help your child set up a comfortable, quiet study area with supplies and proper lighting to ensure uninterrupted homework sessions, says Hernandez-Martins.
“Try heading out to the stores before classes start so your child has a chance to organize his or her area and perhaps finish up any back to school reading in his or her new space before school begins and assignments begin to pile up.” says Hernandez-Martins.
TAKE A POSITIVE SPIN ON THINGS
For some, the idea of making checklists and calendars, organizing and planning ahead sounds, well, stressful. People can instead reduce stress by reframing, which means thinking about things in a neutral or positive way, instead of negatively, explains Hernandez-Martins.
“We may not have control over all the things happening around us, but we have almost complete control over how we interpret them,” Hernandez-Martins says. If your child is feeling anxious with the thought of heading back to school, it’s important to acknowledge his or her concerns.
Let him or her know that It is absolutely normal to feel nervous heading into a new school year with many unknowns ahead. Then you can try focusing on positive things such as meeting friends and learning lots of new and exciting things in class, says Hernandez-Martins.
“If they are going to a new school, perhaps planning a drive by or walk through the week before school begins, can help ease the tension. Positive, Calm, encouragement is contagious!”
It seems straightforward, but listening carefully to your child can really help get to the root of the problem and help alleviate it, believes Hernandez-Martins.
Can it be a learning difficulty? A bully in class? A new teacher without an understanding of your child’s head strong personality? Or just some back to school jitters?
“ It can be a number of things stressing out your child, but you won’t really know until you ask and listen. Being a good listener for your child is one of the most effective stress-free strategies you can have. ” says Hernandez-Martins.
Still not sure where you should begin after reading these tips?
Remember that chronic stress at home has been shown to be damaging to a child’s health, so it’s important that you are a good role model as a parent.
“If you are stressed, chances are your child will also become stressed. The best thing you can do is deal with your stress in a healthy way and show your children how to move past it. Emotions can be contagious, so try and focus on the positives.” says Hernandez-Martins.
Try asking your child what they think would make this fall at school a little less stressful- just listen, be prepared to laugh, and go from there!