4 Ways to Navigate This School Year Successfully

By Sausha Gruca, AMFT

It’s that time of year again— BACK TO SCHOOL! This time of the year can bring up a variety of emotions for both parents/guardians and their children, including feelings of excitement, nervousness, worry, stress and many others throughout the transition. Whether you are looking forward to exciting times, such as the big first day or watching your child excel at a particular extracurricular, or are worried about more challenging times, such as bullying or maintaining grades, here are 4 helpful tips for getting through this school year:

1. Open communication: It’s your job to open up lines of communication with your child, which starts by taking the time to sit with them for a couple of minutes or more daily. Once this is done many times, the child will realize you are interested in and curious about their lives; they will then view you as a safe space where they can open up a variety of topics, especially those that are more challenging to discuss.

Solution ideas:

- Set aside time, ideally a period that can be uninterrupted.

- Ask open-ended questions, rather than ones that may elicit a one-word answer.

- Ask what your child needs from the conversation instead of assuming you know.

- Talk with your child instead of at them.

2. Be mindful of your reaction: Understanding the impact your reaction will have on your child during communication is important. A strong or intense outward emotional reaction can be overwhelming for your child or intensify the emotions that they are already feeling. Kids also do not want to worry or upset their parents and many times, intense reactions can be interpreted as such. In trying to protect your child, your reaction may be strong, but it’s important to verbalize what you are thinking and feeling to avoid them shutting down.

Solution ideas:

- Empathize with them if you have gone through something similar, but be aware of shifting focus off of their issue. 

- Actively listen by using eye contact, letting them finish a thought.

- Use “I” statements.

- Be curious and calm.

- Try to avoid: jumping to conclusions, solving the issue, blaming them or placing judgment. 

- Make things clear and simple.

3. Find a solution: Parents often want to solve issues for their child, in an effort to help them. However, creating a plan with your child that includes developmentally appropriate solutions can help empower and encourage them to use their voice, rather than trying to “fix” for them. By creating a specific plan, you and your child can be clear on each person’s role, expectations from one another, and likely consequences if they are not met. Of course, the exception to this is if your child is in danger, which is a time when you should definitely take the lead, no questions asked.

Solution ideas: 

- Use coping skills (i.e. breathing, taking a walk, reading, eating a snack).

- Talk with teachers and counselors.

- Research solutions.

- If it comes to it, seek outside support.

4. Create opportunities for encouragement and praise: Just like many adults, children want to be praised for the achievements they have made and be encouraged when the going gets tough. By taking the time to notice both the big and small things your child is doing well or is striving for, you are supporting them in creating and embracing their ever-evolving sense of self. It can be difficult to take the time to create these types of opportunities, but in doing so you’re not only showing your child that you are paying attention to them, but building internal motivation and a stronger sense of self-esteem that can last a lifetime.

Solution ideas:

- Focus on the positive, not only on things to work on.

- Look for moments you can encourage or praise your child.

- Make eye contact and give all attention to your child in that moment.

- Say things like: “I am proud of you”, “thank you for taking care of that”, “you got this” or “I see how hard you are trying”.

We hope this next school year is everything you want it to be for you and your child. Keep at it, you got this! Let’s rock this year!

Pinnacle would love to help support through and your family throughout the changes brought on by a new school year. To schedule a session, contact us today!

Natalie Underway