Back to school: Setting our kids up for success

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School supplies being organized for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.

This coming school year is going to look different for families. No matter if schools are fully open, home-schooled or a hybrid plan, there are steps we can take to minimize anxieties and better prepare as both a family and parents.

Set the Tone

The most important concept to remember is that kids take their cues from the adults in their lives. If a parent is spending time vocalizing displeasure, anger or anxiety, kids will pick up on that, either directly or indirectly. Our job as adults is to model behaviors we want our children and teens to emulate, which means being respectful to authorities, admitting when we do not know the correct answer, seeking guidance when needed and expressing our opinions in healthy, respectful manner.

This also means demonstrating positive coping skills when stressed. Admit when you are feeling overwhelmed and then participate in something positive such as going for a walk, turning on upbeat music, doing a workout video, or calling a friend to chat. Kids notice.

Openly Communicate About Changes

Discuss possible changes to the school year, like mask wearing, bringing your own water bottle, sitting spaced out in the cafeteria and more frequent handwashing.

For more online work, discuss how you and your child will keep track of schedules. For hybrid schooling, set up reminders to bring books back and forth or any other necessary materials.

Acknowledge Concerns and Explore Solutions

When discussing school, ask your children questions such as “what do you think school will be like this year?” and “what are you looking forward to?”

If your child responds with a worry, then explore solutions together. It’s okay to acknowledge being uncertain or worried about a situation but it is equally important to explore the positive solutions. Too much time dwelling on the worry leads to negative emotions and increased anxieties. Remind your child that you are their support network and highlight other adults that are supportive as well.

Focus on the Positives

Positive thoughts lead to positive feelings which lead to positive behaviors. Look for the good in every situation – there is always a positive! Going back to school means spending more time with friends and classmates (both virtually or in person), establishing a schedule and purpose, learning new skills, and a chance to make new friends!

A hybrid plan may mean getting to sleep in a bit longer some days, a pajama day, extra time to snuggle with the family pet or more comfortable seating to do homework in.

Start Preparing Now

Although there is still some unknown surrounding what school will look like this year, we know it’s starting soon!  Gather school supplies and create a distraction free homework space.

Spend some time reminding children how to properly wash their hands, wear a mask, and cough or sneeze into an elbow. Demonstrate and discuss how to maintain personal boundaries, plan lunches with easy open items and practice tying shoes and zipping coats.

Remind older kids and teens not to chew on pens and pencils or to share water bottles at sports practices. Show them how to clean their phones, tablets and other devices

It’s also a good time to start a school year bedtime routine and start working back to school night bedtimes. Typically, you can bump bedtime up 15-30 minutes every few days, working the opposite with waking times.

Don’t Forget the Basics

Remember that nutrition, sleep, and exercise are important for a successful school year – and they help keep our immune systems strong!

Ultimately, kids are resilient. This school year may pose some unique challenges, but our kids will overcome. As always, if you have specific concerns reach out to your school or child’s healthcare provider. We are all members of your team that want to set you and your child up for a successful 2020-2021 school year!

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