Summer is (already!) winding down, and the new school year is beginning. Many students will start the year with a burst of energy and excitement, as they anticipate meeting new teachers, shopping for school supplies, and seeing old friends. However, the transition back to school can come with challenges for some kids. Anger, anxiousness, and sadness are all common experiences for students, and it’s important to seek help if you notice your child needs some extra support. This can also be a stressful time for families, as new routines and rhythms are being established. So how can families work together to ease this transition and enjoy the start of the school year?
1. Normalize your student’s feelings and offer reflective empathy
If you’ve ever seen the movie, Inside Out, you know that emotions can be complex. Your student may feel anxious in the morning, happy in the afternoon, and frustrated at bedtime. Or a combination of all three at once! Having emotions is normal, and validating your student’s experience can be incredibly empowering. Helping your student to recognize and name those feelings is also a useful first step in helping them move through them. You can do this by offering “reflective empathy,” which simply means that you name the emotion you see in your student. Does your student come home and throw their backpack down in a huff. Simply responding, “I see that you’re frustrated” can open the door for your child to feel seen, while also building their emotional vocabulary and making space for further conversation.
2. Establish a regular routine
Students thrive when they have consistency and predictability, especially when they’re young. Knowing when they have to wake up, what they’re doing after school, and when they can get outside and play helps kids feel a sense of safety and security. Consistency in bedtimes also helps to ensure students are getting enough sleep, which is vital for both their physical and mental health. Of course, these rhythms take time to establish, but intentionality in creating them at the beginning of the year will yield major gains as the school year progresses. This article by the Child Mind Institute offers additional tips for how to set good routines and get the school year started off right!
3. Live in grace and seek out support
Change is hard, and that includes the transition of students heading back to school. As parents, it’s important to remember that it’s good to be “good enough.” In fact, Dr. Alexandra Sacks states, “An imperfect mother helps her child gain the skills to tolerate frustration, become self-sufficient, and learn to soothe himself. These are the hallmarks of what psychologists call ‘grit,’ a personality trait that can help your child succeed in life.” So, seeking to be a “good enough” parent, which means offering nurturing support, setting firm limits, and living in grace, will help your student gain self-confidence, as well as social and emotional skills. No one will handle this transition perfectly, and that’s totally okay!
It is also okay to seek out extra support as needed. If you’re wondering if your child or teen might benefit from the support of a mental health counselor, it’s helpful to ask whether or not they’ve experienced a significant change in their behavior. Noticeable changes in mood, appetite, weight, friend groups, and/or social withdrawal can signal your student may benefit from extra care. Some other common things to look out for include:
- Feelings of sadness that last 2 weeks or more
- Heightened fear of trying new things
- Anger outbursts or severe irritability
- Hurting oneself or talking about hurting oneself
- Talking about death or suicide
- Issues with sleep
- Trouble concentrating
- Missing or avoiding school
- Changes in academic performance 
All of our counselors here at CCPC desire to support families as students head back to school, so please reach out if your student is demonstrating any of these signs and could use someone to connect with! We offer counseling for kids, teens, and parents (individuals and couples).
A new season means opportunities for growth, learning, and fun. The CCPC Counseling and Wellness team hopes to support those opportunities as students head back for the 2023/2024 school year!
Crisis Line Summit County: (435) 649-8347. Press 1 for crisis, or Dial 911.