Back to School


It’s that time of year again: Back to school. The time of year when parents and children of all ages rejoice because they are so excited to start up school again. They think to themselves, “School I’ve missed you so much!”

Ok. So maybe that’s not exactly the reality of going back to school. In fact, back to school can be quite the opposite feeling for some. There are some children and parents that actually dread back to school. They might even think to themselves. “Great here we go again. Another year of the same issues. What if we have the same issues with the school? Will my child be bullied again? Are the classes going to be even harder this year? What the heck is Core Math anyway?”

Do you find yourself having these negative feelings toward another start of the school year? It’s natural to have these types of reactions, especially if last year was particularly difficult. But does that mean that you are doomed to have another school year just as bad as the last? Or are there some ways to make the transition to this school year easier? The answer is that there are definitely some steps you can take to smooth the transition process and create more success for your child.

So what are some of these things you might ask? Well grab a seat and make yourself comfortable because here is a list of things you can do help your child have a more successful school year:

  1. Communication with the teacher is key. Having an open line of communication with the school is important. The more you are able to communicate with each other the more you will know about your child’s struggles as well as successes. Remember the school is seeing your child for the large majority of their waking hours. The more you and the school can work together as a team, the easier life is for both parties. Sometimes using things like log books are helpful so that a teacher and parent can write back and forth. There are some teachers that are accessible by email, as well.
  2. Focus on the positive. Last year may have been a little rough, but when you dwell on the past, it impacts your ability to be successful in the present. Try to have an open mind and think about the good things. Encourage your child to do the same. When you catch them having a negative attitude towards school, challenge them to think of the positive.
  3. Routine, routine, routine. Having a routine in place for your child is important. Establishing a daily school routine from wake up and bedtimes to meal times and homework time to free time is important. We all do better when we know what the expectations are. The more that your child knows what is going to happen, the smoother things can go.
  4. Getting enough sleep. Going along with the idea of a routine, getting enough sleep is just as important for your child. Making sure that your child gets plenty of restful sleep is crucial to their daily functioning in school. Many studies suggest that children and adolescents should get even more than the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night, more like 10 hours of sleep. Also, make sure all electronics are off and stashed away an hour before bedtime.
  5. Practice good eating habits. While eating pizza and donuts every day sounds amazing, in the long run it doesn’t provide your child with enough nutrients to keep them going. The idea of nutrition plays a big role in your child’s ability to function and in their brain development. Ensuring that your child has well balanced meals sets them up for success in school. Just like a car, a child’s body needs fuel, or else it’s not going to run at its optimal levels.
  6. Encourage and model organizational skills. This is one of the most difficult skills for many of us. Organization is a helpful skill for children to learn and to be successful in school. It will serve them well later on in life. So it’s important to use those assignment notebooks and multicolored tab folders. Some schools even provide them to your child, so might as well use them right? Review the assignment notebook on a regular basis as a check in with your child. If you become an active participant in this, sometimes children will be more receptive. Also, if children see you actively being more organized yourself, they are more apt to try it themselves. So practice what you preach.
  7. Talk to your child. Involve yourself in your child’s school life. Having an open line of communication with your child is just as important as having one with the school. Asking your child “how was your day?” can lead to a basic closed ended response like “fine.” However if you ask your child things such as “what was the favorite part of your day?” and follow up with “tell me more about that,” you start a conversation. If it was a distressing day, validate your child’s feelings. Meaning, just acknowledge that they had a “bad day”. It might seem silly but validation can go a long way.

So, there you have it. Easy enough right? Well, I think sometimes these things are easier said than done. However, if you put some of these ideas into practice, you might be surprised by your results. The more excitement and involvement that you take in your child’s life, the better the results will be. In the end, the most important thing is being there for your children to support, encourage and model to them the best ways to succeed. Remember you are your child’s biggest role model.

Renee Lensky, MS LCMHC is a licensed clinical mental health counselor. Renee works with individuals of all ages and specializes in working with children, adolescents and families. Renee has a family systems, strengths-based approach that is individualized to meet the needs of each person and family. Renee is accepting new clients in our New London and Claremont offices.

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