The new school year is just around the corner and it’s no secret that it can be quite stressful for children and parents alike. Waking up early, meeting new teachers and students, learning new and unfamiliar subjects, balancing time for homework and activities, and in some cases, starting at a completely new school, can all contribute to your child’s anxiety. Add to that your own worries like work, juggling busy schoolyear schedules, and paying bills, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster brewing. Try these 10 strategies to keep your family calm, cool, and collected during the transition back to school:
- Get on a schedule: Children respond positively to routine. Establishing a routine and keeping a consistent lights-out time will decrease bedtime resistance. Give each child his or her own dry erase board to jot down the next day’s schedule. Kids love having their own boards and feel less anxiety when they’re aware of their schedule.
- Limit extracurricular activities. Consider choosing one or two activities a week and avoid those with rigorous demands. For example, a team that requires four practices a week from 7:30 to 9:00 PM might not be worth the amount of commitment or lack of sleep for your child. Make sure to choose activities that create joy for your child, not stress.
- Schedule some down time. And use this planned free time to connect with your child. Put your work aside and focus on him or her. Take a walk, gaze at the stars, or cook your favorite meal together. These moments help build your relationship and provide much needed stress relief for you and both of you.
- Get organized. Even the simplest organization solutions can reduce anxiety and chaos. For example, designate a shoe area; knowing where to find your child’s shoes in the morning can eliminate wasted time and energy looking for them. Get creative with your organizing and enlist the help of your child.
- Catch plenty of zzzz’s. School-aged children and pre-teens need approximately 10 hours of sleep a night! Teenagers can get away with a little less, at a recommended nine hours a night. Getting enough sleep is one of the best things we can do for our bodies. This period of rest helps our bodies reset and repair from the day’s stresses, and many experts believe that when children don’t get enough sleep it can affect their growth and immune system. A well-rested child is also less irritable and better able to respond to stressful situations in a balanced, calm manner.
- Proper nutrition matters. Sugar, caffeine, and food coloring can cause the jitters, so they should be limited. Start your child’s day off right with a balanced breakfast. It doesn’t have to be elaborate; a bowl of oatmeal, a glass of milk, and piece of fruit provide excellent nutrition. Prepare healthy lunches and keep nutritious snacks on hand.
- Make time for physical activity. Exercise releases pent-up energy, helps build strong muscles and bones, and keeps the mind clear and sharp. It can be something as simple as running around on the playground, playing sports with other kids in the neighborhood, or doing some family workouts. In fact, children are more likely to want to exercise if they see their parents doing it, so lead by example and get the whole family moving.
- Talk to your child about stress. Young children experiencing stress or anxiety for the first time might not fully understand what they’re feeling, and they certainly won’t know how to handle it. Taking the time to talk with your child about what stress is, and helping him or her understand how to deal with it properly is important. Be available, listen actively to your child’s concerns, and respond thoughtfully.
- Practice relaxation techniques. It’s never too early to introduce your child to relaxation techniques. Our world is stress-filled and we need to show our children how to counteract that pressure. Take a few minutes with your child each day to sit still and concentrate on your breathing.
- Don’t forget to laugh! Spend some time joking with your child, telling silly stories, or watching funny movies. Laughter is a great way to relieve the stresses of the day, and it might even help you relax, too.
Stress can be a serious factor in the success of your child, so use these tips to help keep your whole family happy and healthy this school year.
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