August 16, 2013

Back to School Tips for Parents (transitions, learning pace, stress management and more)

Soon...another little hand to hold.

Back to school time…

Back to School Tips for Parents (transitions, learning pace, stress management and more)

Below, I interviewed Ava Parnass, owner of Listen To Me Please. Thanks for the tips, Ava!

School is starting back up. What struggles do many parents face as a new school year begins?

Parents worry about a lot of things when it comes to their children – especially starting school. Transitions are hard for everyone and parents wonder if the teacher will be kind and if their child will be liked. Will their child like the teacher? The teacher makes or breaks a child’s year. Will the child’s friends be in their class, or will they need to make new friends?

Transitioning back into a routine is difficult. You have to give up free time and day-long playing for structure.

What tips can you offer parents for a smooth transition into the new year?

Start a week or two before your routine needs to be set in place. Go shopping and have your child help fill up their back pack. (Our 411 Voices colleague Not Supermom has great advice about donating to kids who don’t have money to fill their backpacks.)

Every child responds differently to transition but even most adults don’t enjoy back to school time. Although…some parents may have had enough of the long summer!

Try role play: making new friends and meeting a new teacher, etc. See if you can walk or drive by the school. Some schools let parents and kids visit before school starts. I created a Fun Feeling States Map (series 2) for parents and kids to help kids figure out how they feel. This can help to smooth transitions.

Should parents be concerned if their child(ren) appear to be learning at a slower pace than peers?

I think every child should be embraced for who they are. The research coming out now says that emotional intelligence is more important than academics. Accept your child for her/his learning style. If you are concerned, schools have evaluations to see if there are learning disabilities that need support. Most children need a little more help in certain areas than others. But my advice is to enjoy your kids and don’t make them anxious about the academics.

If parents feel their kids are not being challenged enough at school, what can they do?

Every school has a different system about who to talk to when kids are not being challenged. I also think it varies from state to state. I supplement at home when I feel my child needs that. I focus on physical activity, play, singing, songwriting, making movies, etc. I suggest parents do the same on a topic that their kids appreciate.

How can parents model stress management for their kids, each day?

Parents can show kids that if they make a mistake, they can apologize. And if parents get upset, they can regulate their mood without yelling. Parents can role model if something is very stressful – they can solve the problem calmly. Parents can teach kids how to relax, deep breath and listen to relaxation and meditation tapes.
Parents can point out how defining feelings underneath the behavior and talking about it makes you feel better, improving behavior.

{More reading: 10 stress buster ideas for kids}

Please share a few ways in which parents can help their kids de-stress after a long day at school.

Step 1: The best thing parents can do is offer their kids a kiss and hug. Then ask, “What did you like about your day? What didn’t you like about your day?” Let your children talk. Make eye contact and listen, without judgement.

Step 2 : Let your kids run around and play.

Step 3: Let your kids run around and play some more.

Step 4: Ask, “What was hard about today?” “What was easy about today?”

{Resource: Stress Free Kids}

{Resource: BRAVE by Marjie Braun Knudsen}

How many extracurricular activities do you recommend for young kids? Tweens? Teens?

Make sure your child has enough of a childhood. That means lots of free play time. For many years we did once a week singing lessons but we are an active family every day. We walk and swim often. Now at the age of 11, my child has one drama class and one singing class. Too many after school activities + homework = stressed out kids.

One to two extra curricular activities is enough. Try not to Helicopter Parent your kids.

Any final thoughts for helping parents and kids this school year?

Focus on having your kids enjoy learning – not the homework or the grades. Try to make it a fun school year!

 “Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill.” Tony Buzan

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