For students and teachers alike, summer is a time to kick back, relax in the sun, and enjoy a no-schedule and responsibility-free few weeks. But all good things must come to an end. The summer sun is making way for early wake-up calls, homework, reunion with friends, and new and old extracurricular activities they may have missed (but would never admit!) These changes can put children (and even teachers) through a flood of emotions: joy, anxiety, happiness, or discouragement.
Help the school-aged children in your life prepare for a mentally strong first day of school and a healthy, happy school year with these six back-to-school tips for mental health.
Start Routines Early
Summer usually means going to bed late and waking up even later—a drastic change from the regular hours during school. Kids adapt to summer schedules quickly, but it doesn’t take long to restart a school year routine. The key is starting early. Start three weeks before the first day of school—encourage your kids to go to bed and wake up a half-hour earlier every few days until you reach their school schedule. Also include routines like picking out clothes, eating a healthy breakfast, and preparing for the next day. You can help by participating in your routines with them—even if your routines haven’t stopped!
Meet the Teacher and Visit the Class
Anxiety can stem from a fear of the unknown. Children and adolescents attending a new school, moving to a new curriculum, or nervous about new classmates and teachers are susceptible to this type of anxiety. Help them by making the unknown more familiar before the first day. Attend a meet the teacher session with your child and take time to explore the classroom. For older children who may move from class to class during the day, a “trial run” of classes can ease their fears—make sure they know where their classes are located and how to get there.
Host a Back-to-School Get Together
With vacations, camps, and activities, it’s challenging to find time to get together with school friends during the summer, which may leave some children with social anxiety.1 Help them get to know their friends before school starts with a back-to-school party. Hosting an event in your home or another familiar area will let kids burn energy and reconnect before school structure sets into their lives.
Freshen Up Time Management Skills
The phrase “time flies when you’re having fun” must have been coined during summer break! When kids don’t have a schedule to stick with, time management goes out the front door. In the few weeks before school starts, choose a few school-related tasks—packing lunch or reading, for instance—and give them a time limit. Put together a family planner with individual calendars for your kids and encourage them to decorate while filling out upcoming activities for the school year.2
Establish a Feelings Toolkit
This technique is a wonderful way to reset after a stressful day and help your child stay grounded. These simple steps make up the “toolkit” your child can access when they feel anxious or stressed:
- Label your emotion—Does your child feel sad? Disappointed? Afraid? Identifying the emotion helps them take a pause and makes big feelings seem more manageable.
- Tune in to your body—Ask your child to describe how they feel physically (Warm? Cold? In pain? Sick to their stomach?) as well as elements of the room (Comfortable couch? Cool breeze? Loud music?) to help them feel grounded in their body.
- Take a few deep breaths—Encourage breathing exercises like these options for younger children.
- Focus on a comfort item—Many children have favorite toys, blankets, or stuffed animals that serve as comfort items, but for older children, help them identify a comfort object (a pillow, fidget toy, or journal).
Support for Your Kids’ Mental Health from Uprise Health
Children and adolescents are facing more mental health challenges than ever before.3 We’re proud to offer our Uprise Health customers resources to help parents support their children of all ages. Learn more about our mental health solutions for employers and employees.