Jenna Behrens is a licensed professional counselor who has been practicing in the mental health field for seven years. She owns Behrens Psychotherapy Services, LLC which has four office locations around the Milwaukee area. She works with children, adolescents, families, and adults on a wide array of issues including depression, anxiety, ADHD, childhood behavioral disorders, adjustment disorders, stress and parenting.
Right about now is the time therapy for kids turns into hatching a plan with parents to make the adjustment from summer to the school year less hectic and difficult. Parents and children have some of the same worries when they think about starting a new school year: From homework to waking up and going to bed much earlier, anxiety rises. Here are some tips that should be started now to get kids (and parents) more prepared for the year ahead.
1- Take a deep breath. You will get through this. You will survive.
2- Start adjusting bedtimes and wake times now. Start with 15 or 30 minute increments depending on how far off they are now. Don't expect that they are going to be able to adjust by several hours in one night or even one week.
3- Get all school supply and clothing shopping done at least a week before. Wash and put away all the clothes, pick out a first day outfit (if your child cares about that) and make sure backpacks are bought and all supplies are inside ready for the first day.
4- Most kids get their school planner before school starts. Sit down with your child and add any birthdays, holidays, vacations, appointments, etc to the planner. Have your child start using their planner daily now. At least get them in the habit of checking their planner and crossing off the days. If they have chores, have them add in their chores now so they get used to using the planner on a daily basis. This will help tremendously when school starts. Believe me- A child actually remembering they have a planner and should be using it is half the battle to getting homework brought home and completed on time.
5-Make sure your kids are healthy. Take them to their pediatrician, eye doctor and dentist for their check ups so the unnecessary absences from school are decreased.
6- Get your kids outside and make sure they are eating well. Don't let them be lazy. If they are sleeping all day and not expelling any energy, they aren't going to be physically or mentally prepared for school. School is like a full-time job for kids. They need energy to get through the day which is coming from healthy food, sleep and exercise.
7-Don't forget about mental health! Of course I would say that. But seriously, if your child has been going through any kind of adjustment (parents divorcing, losing a loved one or pet, or even anxiety related to going back to school) get them help! The mind and the body need to be in shape for school. You can't learn if you are distracted by other thoughts or impaired by your mood.
8-Have realistic expectations. It's going to be a little hectic as everyone gets used to the new schedule again. Make it as easy as possible. Pre-cook a few meals so you don't have to cook right after you get home while you're helping your kids with homework. Rearrange your schedule, if you can, so you don't have to be out of town for work or have any major work projects due the first week your kids are back to school. The more attention you can put towards establishing routines in the first few weeks, the smoother the rest of the year will go.
9- Get help! If the school year continues to be rough a couple months in, see a counselor. There may be a deeper issue going on such as a learning disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or severe family dysfunction.
Jenna Behrens, LPC (The Shrink)