Mentally Prepping for School

Christine Montgomery from Clifford Beers Clinic in New Haven.

Mentally Prepping for School

New Haven, Conn. (WTNH) –  School is just around the corner and that anxiety can set in sometimes for students.
Especially if they are starting a new school. There are social and educational challenges that may have them worried.

Christine Montgomery a licensed clinical social worker from the Clifford Beers Clinic in New Haven talks about how you can help your child prepare mentally for the start of the school year.

Q: How can parents support their child/ teens successful return to school?

A: Whether their summer was jam-packed with activities or filled with complaints about being bored with nothing to do, kids (and parents) often have a tough time making the back-to-school transition.

If you child is starting school for the first time or entering a new grade or new school – allow kids time to adjust. Emphasize the positive things about going back to school, such as hanging out with old friends or meeting new classmates and getting involved in sports and other activities.

Consider adjusting your own schedule to make the transition smoother. If possible, it’s beneficial for parents to be home at the end of the school day for the first week or so. If that’s not possible– try to arrange your evenings so you can give kids as much time as they need, especially during those first few weeks.

Q. Do you have any suggestions on how soon parents should get back into the school- night routine?

Regardless of your child’s age-I suggest starting your school night routine 2-3 weeks before the first day of school. Establish a reasonable bedtime schedule so they’ll be well-rested and ready to learn in the morning. Begin a morning routine including eating a healthy breakfast and organizing back packs and clothing.

Q. OK. Then let’s start at the beginning. What can parents do to help the youngest members of the family get ready for going back to school?

Both children and PARENTS need to prepare for the start of kindergarten. I have a few helpful hints:

1. Take advantage of every orientation possibility to make the child AND you comfortable with the new school setting. Use orientation time to start building a relationship with your child’s teacher. If it’s a full-day program-your child will be spending half of their waking hours at school.
2. If a formal orientation is not available- ask for one. Or go on school tour, walk the grounds and visit the playground.
3. Gather all the info you can about how the first day will be structured and talk about it with your child.
4. So– the big one, THE BUS! If you are anxious about the bus, try not to let your child see it. Some school districts may offer a small bus ride before school starts-again-if that is offered-use that opportunity as practice. I also suggest avoiding the temptation to drive your child to school-you are both better off getting comfortable with the school bus routine as soon as possible.
5. If possible, be there when the your child comes home. A celebration of the day’s successes will be a big help with the transition.

Q. What about the rest of the elementary school years?

A. Much of the above suggestions stand. It’s important to view the elementary school years as opportunities to build community. Try to get to know other parents. Tell your child that you’ll be going to back to school night a few weeks after school starts, and go!

Develop a plan for homework. Think about how homework can be balanced with afterschool activities. Give a lot of thought to how you’re scheduling your child. Kids need time to play at this age.

It’s also important to talk to kids about what worries them and offer reassurance: Are they afraid they won’t make new friends or get along with their classmates or are they worried about the bully from last year?
Q. What can parents do to get their kids ready for the next step – the middle school years?

A. Your child is now a pre-teen and the transition to middle school is a big step on the road to maturity. Students entering middle school typically worry about three aspects: logistical, social, and academic.
For the logistics– write down the need-to-know info to help them remember details such as their locker combination, what time classes and lunch start and end, their homeroom and classroom numbers, teachers’ names, etc. Socially-tell your pre-teen you’ll be checking in often-and do it. Checking in allows a parent to keep an eye on friends, activities, and managing school work. Academics– parent should set expectations about academics and homework. And again-check in.

Q. Lastly, what about high school? How can parents ready their teenager for high school?

A. Lots of transitions here, and lots of opportunities for increased communication:

1. Again, take advantage of all the orientation opportunities. High schools are big buildings for 13 and 14-year old kids to navigate. They will need to get used to a new schedule. It can be helpful to map out the first few hours-homeroom; where you go next and who you can ask for help (teachers, custodians, identified peer support students)
2. Advocate for involvement– talk about clubs, activities and sports for your teenager. Discuss ways to balance the extra-curricular activities and school demands.
Grades: They are important now. Grades count for college and other opportunities, e.g. military. Identify and talk about tutoring opportunities if your child is anxious about the academic load.
2. Socially: It’s important for there to be clear expectations- structure-rules-especially at the start of the school year.
3. And finally– reassure your high school student that you can handle anything together!

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