The school bell will soon be ringing. The school year can bring stress and anxiety for children as they get ready for a new classroom, teacher, friends and routine. Parents may be counting down the days for the school year to start, but fall can bring stress for moms, dads and caregivers as they navigate new schedules and school time responsibilities.
Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, a longtime Emergency Department nurse and mom of three, shares her tips for setting your kids – and family – up for success this new school year.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HELP KIDS GET READY FOR A NEW SCHOOL YEAR?
Nurse Rose: Back-to-school can be a really hard time for families. Children might have a difficult time adjusting to a new grade and all that comes with it, including a new teacher, new classmates and new expectations – homework, schedules, extracurricular activities – to navigate.
All this change can take a toll on your child’s (and your own) mental health. The anxiety of the new school year can impact sleep, appetite, energy levels and even relationships.
Parents should keep an eye out for a few warning signs:
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Not eating or lack of interest in favorite foods
- More frequent fighting with friends or family members
- Irritability or noticeable mood changes
- Lack of interest in favorite activities
HOW CAN PARENTS HELP THEIR CHILD PREPARE FOR THE START OF SCHOOL?
Nurse Rose: We are all busy in our day-to-day lives. The start of the school year does call for a little extra planning and preparation. Families can get their children ready for the new school year with a few simple tips:
- Ease back into your school year schedule. Go to bed and get up a little earlier every day in the week leading up to school.
- Make school supply shopping more fun. Go to lunch, hit up the stores and plan a little treat when you’re finished. Take the opportunity to talk to your child about what they’re looking forward to or what they’re dreading about the new school year.
- Attend an open house. It’s a great way to meet your child’s new teacher, meet up with friends from the school year and learn more about expectations for the upcoming year.
- Serve a healthy breakfast that includes protein, complex carbs and some fruit to help your child power through the morning.
- Stick to a routine. A morning routine is a great way to get your child mentally and physically prepared for school and unwind after each day.
WHAT SHOULD PARENTS DO IF THEY HAVE CONCERNS ABOUT HOW THEIR CHILD IS ADJUSTING TO A NEW SCHOOL YEAR?
If your child is struggling to adjust to the new school year, talk to your child’s pediatrician. Your child’s provider can help you identify any causes of stress and create a plan to ease stress, reduce anxiety and set your child up for success.