Note: This is part one of a two-part series.
The start of a school year can be a challenging time for children and parents with transitions from one grade to another, new teachers, bullying, social pressure and much more. With a little preparation and the right attitude, shifting from a laid back summer to the routine of school doesn’t have to be difficult.
Ongoing during the school year…
- Stay involved with your children’s school and have regular communication with their teacher – even if it’s over email. Keep in touch and stay on top of how they are doing academically, socially and behaviorally.
- Set up “check-in” times with your children regarding school. During “check-ins” explore all the elements that you were discussing before the school year starts, including excitements and fears, difficulties and successes, how the routines are working, amount of extra curricular activities and impact on school performance, and homework. Remember any routine can be modified and possibly improved.
- Create other family traditions around the progression of the school year, such as a tradition around the 100th day of school, winter break holiday, or the halfway school mark.
Being a friend and making friends…
- Some kids might worry about making new friends and “fitting in”. Finding a safe, welcoming group is a great foundation for dealing with the ups and downs of school).
- Remember making friends comes from combining a series of multiple social skills, including introducing yourself to people, creating a welcoming presence, finding connections with new people, or inviting someone to hang out or play date. Practice these skills with your children.
- One person’s “joke” can easily be another person’s hurt feelings. Coach children on considering how their words/actions could be interpreted by others. Set expectations early on for appropriate behavior and listen to how they interact with their friends.
- Teach your child empathy and how to be a good friend.
How to Deal with Bullying…
- Talk with your children about how to handle bullying and the impact of bullying on others. Come up with a family plan around how to deal with bullying situations. Practice those situations with your children.
- Do not tolerate bullying in your household, even between siblings. Research shows that hostility between siblings is not innocent and can leave a lasting, detrimental impact.
- Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. Talk with your children about how to respond to cyberbullying directed towards them or their friends. Also discuss with them the impact of any type of bullying may have on other people, helping them make better choices than to not engage in cyberbullying. Know your child’s online world – check their postings and visit sites they frequent. Talk with them about trends you may be noticing that may concern you.
–Scott Cypers, PhD, is a child, adolescent and adult psychologist at the Johnson Depression Center. Dr. Cypers’ primary clinical and research interests focus on anxiety and stress-related issues.