Labor Day marks the unofficial end of the summer, and the start of a new school year for most people. Many children experience anxiety at this time, being filled with the stress of what starting school again will entail.
From bullying and being nervous about making friends and having a new teacher, there’s a lot that can weigh on a child. This stress can continue throughout the school year and have devastating consequences. According to the American Psychological Association, when children experience chronic stress it can contribute to psychological problems, as well as physical conditions. The good news is that there are plenty of things parents can do to help their child prepare.
“Kids don’t know just how to handle their emotions, so it’s important for parents to take steps to help address them,” explains Reena B. Patel, a parenting expert, licensed educational psychologist, and author, who offer virtual workshops. “Parents who make emotional and social health a priority will help raise children who are more successful, stable, and experience less stress in life.”
There are many things parents can do to help prepare their children emotionally and socially for taking on a new school year. These include tips:
- Teaching kids to embrace progress, rather than perfection. If they feel they have to get perfect grades, for example, they will have a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety.
- Setting your expectations for them based on your values. It’s important to let kids know what you expect for the school year from them, but that you realize there is room for error, too.
- Taking the time to talk to your children about your own social mistakes, so they can learn from them. Let them know what mistakes you made and how you would have handled it differently if you could go back in time now.
- Remembering that winning isn’t everything. Kids need to learn how to be a team member, and how to lose gracefully. Play games with them where they will lose at times, so they can learn good sportsmanship and resilience.
- Discussing with them what “success” means. Teach them that we all learn through our mistakes on our way to success.
- Kids need to know how to make friends, so discuss with them how to do that. Have your child pick five qualities you would want in a friend and then discuss the list with them. As social issues arise, refer back to that list of core values to see if the relationship is a good fit.
- Having a family discussion about finding balance and discussing how much can be fit into one schedule. This is especially important when it comes to the number of extracurricular activities that can be taken on.
- Making sure your kids know that it’s okay to ask for help.
- Making a social media discussion a priority if your child uses it, ensuring that they use the T.H.I.N.K. acronym regarding what they post online. T (is it truthful), H (is it helpful), I (is it inspiring), N (is it necessary), and K (is it kind).
- Having a discussion about bullying. Remind them that bullying is never okay and that they need to speak up if it happens. Discuss having boundaries, speaking up, being a good role model, and getting help when needed.
- Teaching your child coping skills, which will help them be better prepared to handle stress and anxiety.
- Letting kids know the importance of focusing on the positives in life. They can do this by keeping a gratitude journal, and having a positive affirmation that they repeat each day.
“Most parents are focused on the supplies that kids need for school, but those pale in comparison to the emotional tools they need,” added Patel. “By making sure kids have the emotional and social tools and skills they need, they will be more likely to enjoy the school year, get better grades, and be happier, all of which are good.”
Patel has a new debut radio show on Dash Radio, North America’s first mainstream South Asian radio station, which premiered in April 2019. The station was founded by Rukus Avenue Music Group, and can be head on 24-7 on the Dash Radio app, as well as on the on the Dash Radio platform at DashRadio.com.
Patel is the founder of AutiZm& More. As a licensed educational psychologist and guidance counselor, she helps children and their families with the use of positive behavior support strategies across home, school, and community settings. She does workshops around California, and virtual workshops globally where she provides this information to health professionals, families, and educators. She also offers concierge parenting services, helping families to reach specific goals, such as focusing on college admission. She is also the author of a book that helps children with anxiety coping strategies called “Winnie & Her Worries,” and author of a book about autism awareness and acceptance, called “My Friend Max: A Story about a Friend with Autism.” Both of her books are available on Amazon. To learn more about her services, visit the website at reenabpatel.com or view her reel at youtube.com/watch?v=eqvx8dqszS4&t=4s.
About Reena B. Patel
Based in the San Diego area, Reena B. Patel (LEP, BCBA) is a renowned parenting expert, guidance counselor, licensed educational psychologist, and board-certified behavior analyst. For more than 20 years, Patel has had the privilege of working with families and children, supporting all aspects of education and positive wellness. She works extensively with developing children as well as children with exceptional needs, supporting their academic, behavioral and social development. She was recently nominated for San Diego Magazine’s “Woman of the Year.” To learn more about her books and services, visit the website at www.reenabpatel.com, or to book her direct go to reenabpatel.com/book-now/.
To get more parenting tips, follow her on Instagram @reenabpatel.
American Psychological Association. The kids aren’t all right. apa.org/monitor/2010/01/stress-kids