Photo by Corey David

Heading back to school isn’t always a picnic. If you’re having a tough time, you’re certainly not alone. Transitions are generally tough on our kiddos as it is. Not only does school bring an adjustment in schedule, but it can also cause a lot of anxiety. There is a new routine, new teacher, new classroom, and maybe, even a new school.

The best approach is a proactive one. Here are some back-to-school tips you can implement today so that your family comes out on top!

Back-to-School Win #1: Keep the World Small
The beginning of the school year is bombarded with opportunities—extracurricular activities, new friends, playdates, and busy schedules. As you and your family make this transition, it’s important to keep boundaries and balance.

In a world where kids spend most of their days with their peers and have a limited “village” of adults, they need adults to keep them close. Foster the bond and attachment with your children by ensuring healthy boundaries between them and their peers. It is crucial that adults (rather than peers) become the compass. Be intentional about your weekly schedule and routines. You may want to put healthy limitations on playdates and computer/screen time.

Incorporate “we-time” in your daily routine in order to connect with your child. This can be at the dinner table, after school, or a half-hour before bedtime. Make it a consistent habit and a no-tech zone (no phones, television or Internet allowed)! What was the best thing that happened that day for each person? What was the worst? This activity helps create predictable space and time for your child to depend on and trust you (versus a peer or negative outlet) to help him to process the day. Allow vulnerability and dependence. Open the door for it.

Back-to-School Win #2: Your Child’s Behavior is an Iceberg
Keep in mind that behavior is just a clue as to what may be going on under the surface. If your child is feeling anxious about school, he may be having difficulty concentrating or following directions. Perhaps something may be going on at school and he is having challenges sharing it. Instead of reacting to the behavior, bring your child closer and make room for a conversation (a “time-in”). Some great talking points are, “it seems like something is bothering you today. What’s up?” or “I see you’re very angry. What’s going on?”

A time-out can often make a child have feelings of shame and rejection. Utilizing a time-in is much more effective and healthy for your child to learn and grow. It will preserve your relationship and provide your child with the gentle guidance he needs in a time of frustration.

Back-to-School Win #3: Give Your Expectations a Reality Check
Be sure you and your child’s team are setting him up for success. Due to societal pressures and a “cookie cutter” educational system, sometimes expectations are simply too high. Each child is different and traditional approaches do not work for everyone. Really get a sense for where your child is at emotionally and developmentally. It’s normal for a child to be a year or two behind emotionally than his physical age.

Are the demands of the teacher, school program, or educational placement not practical? Are your child’s school and extracurricular schedules a bit hectic for his learning style? Is your child adopted or has he gone through a stressful experience? If you have concerns about any of these questions, it may be helpful to set up a team meeting to get everyone on the same page.

Back-to-School Win #4: Self-Care + Find Your Tribe
You’ve heard the saying: put on your oxygen mask first before assisting others. Self-care is one of the best things you can do to help your family be successful. Whether it’s a cup of coffee or an activity, be sure to carve out time for yourself throughout the day. Find like-minded people who understand you and meet with them at least weekly. Explore a hobby that gives you joy. With online communities such as and social media, it is easier than ever to find your tribe.

Don’t forget to do away with any negative energy or people in your life. Start to surround yourself with those who are in alignment with what you believe in!

Back-to-School Win #5: REGULATE!
Due to a long day at school and plenty of stimulation, it’s important that your child has time to regulate himself. Regulate is a fancy word for calm down. Until kids learn how to self-regulate independently (the same way we decide to go for a run or talk to a friend), we have to prompt, guide and regulate them ourselves.

When the kids get home from school, be sure they have time to regulate before jumping into homework. Welcome them home with a hug, room to decompress and healthy snack. They may even need to do a physical activity to release some energy.

Additionally, start modeling and working on some healthy coping skills. Help them notice that they are having a “big feeling” and then suggest a healthy way to address it. One of the best coping skills may be a chat on your lap, a relaxing activity, a hug, or a heart to heart. For the older ones, encourage journaling (or other creative outlets), exercise, counting to ten, or an activity they enjoy. For the younger ones, try progressive relaxation, coloring/drawing, or breathing. Do these activities together if you can!

Hint: I’ve had families utilize a “Relax Box” at home and in the car (i.e. a box filled with stress balls, sensory items, a notebook, drawing materials etc.). If in need of regulation, prompt your child to utilize the Relax Box!

What have your biggest back-to-school challenges been? Share in the comments below!

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