7 Suggestions to a Great School Year
Where did the summer go? It’s hard to believe that a new school year begins in just a few weeks.
For most kids and teens (and parents), this is an exciting time: They’re looking forward to seeing their friends, making new ones and learning more about their favorite subjects. But it’s also a time of stress and anxiety: Will I do well in school? Will my parents be proud of me? Will I make the sports team? Will people like me?
At Youth Eastside Services (YES), many of the young people we see are having problems dealing with pressure – from their parents and their friends, but mostly from themselves. According to YES Counselor Michelle Brode, the number one concern of teenage students is disappointing or worrying their parents. Sometimes the result of this stress is feeling lost or sad, like they don’t know how to cope. Sometimes the situation is worse, and they try to stifle their worries with drugs or alcohol.
Whether your child is just starting elementary school or getting ready to finish high school, we’ve got seven suggestions to help you set them up for success this school year:
- Keep an open line of communication with your child. Even if your child seems totally OK, open up a conversation to make sure that they feel safe talking with you about what’s going on in their life. Check in regularly. The simple act of listening and reassuring can go a long way.
- Make sure your child has a structured routine. Depending on their age, you can either set a predictable schedule for them, or if they’re older, help them create one. Just be sure not to overschedule your child, or encourage overscheduling. Leave some room for downtime.
- Help them find healthy outlets for stress. Does your child like music? Running? Reading? Cooking? Spending time with friends? Help your child find and indulge their passions to stave off stress. Even video games in moderation can be a healthy outlet for stress.
- Teach and model problem-solving. When you run into an obstacle, what do you do? Kids watch and learn, so next time you’re in a tough spot, take a step back and show them patience, creativity, and perseverance. Make sure your child also knows that it’s OK to fail sometimes; treat it as a learning opportunity, and emphasize effort over success.
- Encourage good nutrition, exercise and rest. The foundation of a healthy kid is a balanced diet, regular activity and proper sleep — eight hours or more.
- Inform your child about upcoming life changes. If you know there will be a big change coming up — a new job, a trip, a move — treat your child like one of the team and let them know early. Better yet, get them involved in important decisions that impact them.
- Maintain perspective and encourage your child to do the same. The most important thing is your child’s health and well-being. Straight A’s or the “right” college won’t ensure that they’ll be happy in life.
No matter what you do, sometimes kids just need extra support. Irritability, headaches, stomachaches, changes in eating or sleeping habits, skipping school and clinginess can all be signs of a stressed-out kid. If you’re concerned about your child, call YES, to make an appointment or receive guidance for other resources that can help you.
Most importantly, don’t forget to mitigate your own stress. Studies show that excess parental stress can decrease the quality of your relationship with your child, and increase the number of negative interactions you have with them. Even better: By managing your own stress, you’ll be setting a great example.