By Dylan Bloom, MSW-Intern 

Dylan Bloom is a graduate student working toward his Master of Social Work degree at Aurora University, and currently completing his clinical field placement with us at Aspyre Wellness.  Dylan has shown a special gift for working with children, adolescents, and young adults.  We’ve asked him to step into a slightly different role this week, sharing his knowledge and insights for this month’s Wellness Wednesday article.  Please enjoy this piece by Dylan!  

With the changing of the leaves comes the start of a new school year. For children and parents, this can be a stressful time. New teachers, new classes, new activities, and new curriculums are some stressors, just to name a few. Your child will be experiencing more obligations and experiences compared to the routine they followed over the past three months. This is why effective parenting and stress management are going to be crucial this fall. This post aims to provide five tips for parenting a child who is heavily involved with school and extracurricular activities.

We were all kids once, and some of us vividly remember dreading the start of the school year. Sometimes, we were in brand new classes with brand new teachers and classmates. This could have looked a lot different than our previous year of school. Such changes in schedule, space, and faces result in stress, frustration, and hesitation when it comes to the new school year in front of us. Just like we felt it when we were younger, our children feel it as well. 

Tip One: Provide your child with a sense of routine.

Your child most likely has gotten into the “summer routine.” This can look like staying up late, waking up late, and spending hours on end playing video games or outside with friends. A new school year is always a shock to the system and most children will thrive once they get used to the new routine. Starting the acclimation to the school routine early will help your child get a head start. This can look like setting bedtimes, shutting down blue light at a certain time, and helping your child establish their morning routine before heading out the door.

Tip Two: Provide rewards for good behavior and grades.

Children function and progress more efficiently when rewards are involved. For example, giving a child a reward for their four A’s they received resonates far more than belittling and punishing them for the one C. The simple term for this is Classical Conditioning. Humans will take the rewards that they receive and try to recreate the scenario that got them to those rewards.

Excessive punishment for subpar grades can cause your child to fear school and the classes that they struggle in, causing unwanted stress on a regular basis. To mitigate that, a simple formula that has benefits is three to five praises for every correction. 

Tip Three: Provide healthy eating options for your child’s school day.

As we all know, food is the foundation for a healthy mind and body. There are several studies done that show how good food choices are crucial for a developing child, especially on school days. It is even more important for your child to receive the nutrients they need to take on the day ahead of them before that day starts. Eating a healthy breakfast will fill your child up with the calories needed to reach their highest potential. One common theme parents see is that children do not like to eat breakfast because it is too early in the morning. Sending your child to school with healthy snacks will allow them to eat when they are ready, without having to wait until their lunch period. This will ensure that your child will be able to function through their morning, and stay strong into their afternoon.  

Tip Four: Stay Consistent 

Consistency is key when it comes to parenting a child going through a stressful transition. Providing your child with a calming, reassuring nature will show the child they are allowed to be themselves and make mistakes to learn. This consistency will not always come easy for parents. There might be times where you slip up and let your emotions or beliefs get the best of you. This is okay! Allowing your children to see your mistakes further solidifies the message that nobody is perfect, and it is okay to feel strong emotions. Your child will model your behaviors and how you respond to stress. Knowing this, it is even more important to keep that in mind when there is a situation that causes triggers for you. Showing a strong, consistent response to stressors will translate to how your child manages the stressors in their life. 

Tip Five: Be proactive, not reactive.

Starting a new school year will always come with unexpected circumstances. In terms of mental health, children will have higher levels of stress due to the number of assignments and obligations that they have. Having honest conversations about mental health with your child will help ensure that they know that being stressed or sad is okay. Allowing your child to discuss their emotions will lead to them gaining mindfulness and the ability to recognize the maladaptive emotions and behaviors easier. These are two of the founding skills that are needed to start/continue the healing process. If your child seems to need extra help with their mental health struggles, find the proper resources to allow them to express what they are feeling to a professional. This will also lead to a more open and honest relationship for you and your child down the road.   

A new school year can feel intimidating for both children and parents. It is important to explore your child’s academic abilities and what motivates them to focus on the classroom. A new school year does not have to be something that children and parents fear. It can be an opportunity for growth. Using these tips will lead to a more productive, less stressful school year for both you and your child.  

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