Federated Health Charities’ mission is to improve the health and quality of life of all Ontarians by supporting 21 different health charities providing critical services to those experiencing, or affected by, illness. We believe education and prevention are key parts of supporting the health of our communities, so our weekly Health Hint series strives to provide tangible and easy to implement hints and tips on how to maintain your health, prevent disease, and enjoy increased quality of life. Check out our latest Health Hint on how to manage back-to-school stress for your children. We hope you find it helpful. If you would like to join our efforts to support the health of Ontario, please consider a donation to Federated Health Charities.
It’s that time again, the end of summer and the beginning of school. While this can be a time of excitement and new beginnings, it can also be one of stress and anxiety for children (and parents!). Being prepared for this and having a plan of how to best support your kids through this time of transition can make a huge difference. As supportive adults in our kids lives, it is important that we watch and listen for signs of distress. Depending on their age, children have not yet developed the capacity to identify and articulate their emotions, so may not be able to communicate how they are feeling to you. It is important for you to observe and track behaviours to notice if something is off.
While every child is different, Very Well Family developed this helpful diagram to identify some of the behaviours to watch out for in your kids that could be signs of stress and anxiety.
Tips to Reduce Stress and Set Your Kids Up for Success
1. Begin transitioning early to a new sleep schedule
Summer often sees kids staying up later, sleeping in, and not following a regular sleep schedule. It will ease the transition back to a regular school sleep schedule if you begin it early. Establishing routines for a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to set your child up for success. It is best to transition to this new routine a week or two before school begins.
2. Establish (and stick to!) a school routine
Children respond well to consistency and routine. Before school begins, sit down with your kids, and decide on the best morning and evening routines and then commit to ensuring your family sticks to it. When your kids know what to expect, it lessens stress and conflict. It is important to note that a successful routine/schedule includes both time for activities and down time.
3. Make your children feel prepared
Your kids will be filled with anxiety over the unknown as the beginning of the year begins, so anything you can do to lessen he unknown will lessen the feelings of distress. Visit the school ahead of time, find out what classroom they will be in and who their teacher will be, go over the school routines with them (how to ask to use the washroom, where to put their backpacks, what time lunch and recess is at), etc. Having the answers to some of these questions can help lessen feelings of anxiety and make them feel more prepared.
As we all know “communication is key” and that is no different with children. Younger kids may not have the words to express the emotions they are feeling, but that doesn’t mean you cant still acknowledge them and communicate about them. All they need is for you to hear them and to validate how they are feeling. Through communicating you can assure them that they are not alone. Starting something new is scary and, because of this, they wont be the only children feeling that way. Everyone will be nervous, and the teachers will be prepared to deal with this.
5. Prepare for homework
If your kids are new to school, it is likely they are going to be worried about homework. This is another opportunity to be prepared and decrease some of the unknown around what homework entails. Discuss the types of homework they may get, set a plan for where and when they will do their homework, and discuss how you will support them with any difficult work they receive.
6. Manage screen time
Technology has its benefits and its downfalls. When not managed, screen time can contribute to feelings of stress, isolation, and anxiety for children. Each family needs to determine the best amount and schedule for screen time, but it is recommended to have limits on it and balance it with time spent with other and diverse activities.
7. Be available and present
Back to school season is busy for all of us, both kids and parents, so it can be easy to get caught up in the hustle of it all. During this transition time for your kids though, it is extra important to try and be present and available for them. Spend time with them, be there when they get home the first few days, talk to them, and observe them. Letting them know you are there, should they be struggling, is key.
8. Know when to get help
Many of the emotions your child will feel during this time are normal and temporary. With enough time and support your child will become more comfortable and confident. But there are times when children can be struggling a bit more and might benefit from some additional support. There is no shame in this and addressing it head on can be the best thing for your child, to set them up for success. If you do sense your child could use some additional support, speak to your doctor, the school guidance counsellor, or a therapist.
We hope you enjoyed our latest Health Hint!