Navigating back to school blues

For some children, transitioning back into school after summer is exciting- buying new school supplies, returning to a structured schedule, and catching up with friends in their classes all provide them with a sense of purpose and accomplishment. However, for others, the thought of returning back to school after summer is stressful and overwhelming. There are fears about how their classes, teachers, and peers will be, and worries about their ability to keep up with it all! Students suffering through problems with bullying and those who experience academic and learning difficulties are at an even greater risk for facing symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as exhibiting problems in conduct, once the school year begins. As with any potentially distressing situation, building resilience in your child is not only a tool for survival, but will allow your child to thrive! Here are several tips to help develop this resilience, cope with back to school stress, and transition (hopefully seamlessly!) into the new school year.

1.     One of the most important things you can do for your child is to maintain a consistent daily schedule, as much as possible. Routines have a way of taking away the worries associated with the unknowns, and can provide a sense of comfort to children. It may be helpful to begin implementing school routines several weeks before school even starts (i.e., going to bed at a regular time, waking up at the same time they would for school) to allow your child to adjust and to work out any kinks in the routines. Additionally, once school is in session, it can be helpful to create nightly routines in preparation for the next day, such as laying out their clothing, packing lunches, and organizing school materials, so that the morning feels less rushed and stressful!

2.     Beyond scheduling, maintaining open lines of communication with your child and conveying empathy when difficult situations arise will allow them to express their concerns, explore solutions, and feel supported. It is important that time is taken to listen to your child’s concerns and discuss their day at school, including any problems that may have occurred.   

3.     Create time for fun, and not only on the weekends! Our schedules are often so busy that there’s not much room for fun and games, which is why it becomes that much more important. During the weeknights, fun activities can be kept simple, such as reading a book before bed, watching a favorite TV show, playing one round of a board or card game, taking a walk, or getting ice cream after dinner. It can also be easy to incorporate fun and relaxation into tasks that need to be done anyways, such as cooking a meal together or allowing them to take a bubble bath.

4.     Lastly, seek help when needed. For example, if your child is experiencing learning difficulties that affect their emotional functioning and self-confidence, it may be beneficial to complete educational testing and request additional services, accommodations, and/or tutoring to help them in school. If they are experiencing problems with bullying, report their concerns to the appropriate authorities and be an advocate for your child. And if school stress is too much to handle, it may be helpful to seek expert advice from a therapist to help your child better cope.  

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2019-2020 school year!

Brooke Hudgins