Change, whether positive or negative has been rated one of the highest stressors for children. The seasonal schedule change from summer to fall can be enough to create feelings of stress and anxiety. Now add in the early morning rush to school, homework demands, and after school activities, and the entire family can feel overwhelmed.
Cut down on the chaos and make this school year a smooth transition for both you and your child during the first sensitive weeks:
Get on a Schedule
Begin preparing your child for school at least a week beforehand. Children thrive on routine. Knowing what to expect boosts confidence, provides reassurance and security for your child. Dry erase boards and calendars are great for writing the following day’s schedule. Kids love their own boards and feel less anxiety when they are aware of their schedule. Simply knowing what day they need to wear sneakers for gym can be a relief.
“Listen” carefully and respectfully to children
It’s very rare for kids to sit down and talk about their feelings. They show us what’s wrong through their behavior. Sleep trouble, resistance, crying, clinging, throwing tantrums, and increasing aggression are indications of anxiety. Observe what your kids are doing rather than what they’re saying. Encourage your child to have and share their feelings in their safe place of home. No matter how old a child is, loving reassurance and support is invaluable. This makes a positive difference to a child’s well being, and their behavior too.
Limit your extra curricular activities
Allow your kids time to adjust to one thing at a time, especially something “big” like school. I recommend choosing one activity per week. Make sure it’s an activity that creates joy, not stress. There is no sense in heading to a weekly gymnastics class while adjusting to school, if it’s not something your child cares for. For younger ones, like my preschooler, simply going to the playground with new classmates can be enough.
Schedule down time
Have one (or two) days, where there is nothing scheduled. My dear friend coined the phrase “Sleepy Saturdays”. Use this time to connect with each other. Put your work aside and focus on being with your child. Have a pajama day. Take a walk. Crunch on leaves or collect acorns as you go. These moments are relationship building and provide much needed stress relief for both adults and children.
The simplest organization solutions can save a lot of anxiety and chaos. For example, I love a system for organizing a weeks worth of clothes laid out by day. Get a small vertical shelf system and put the days of the week on it. Place your child’s outfit for the day in the slot and they can easily grab it out each morning without the fuss of “what should I wear?” We use the bottom slot for shoes which has eliminated that dreadful drop zone for misfit shoes!
Meal planning is another great way to stay ahead of the game and be organized. Head over to “Get Real Gal” for amazing (and healthy) recipes, shopping lists, prep day tips and freezer meal suggestions.
Rest and nutrition
A well rested child is less irritable, cranky, and better able to respond to stressful situations in a balanced, calm manner.
Nothing is more important than a sleep schedule, and consistency is key. Whenever possible, keep bedtimes and routines, the same across every night of the week. Avoid letting children stay up later and sleep in longer on the weekends. Any shift in your child’s sleep cycle can set you off course.
Create a sleep friendly bedroom. Bedrooms should be dark, quiet and free of distractions like television sets and electronics. Avoid using the bedroom for punishment and time outs. It should be a place your child feels comfortable and safe and wants to go to to relax and unwind.
Age: Sleep Needed:
3-12 mos 14-15 hours
1-3 years 12-14 hours
3-5 years 11-13 hours
5-12 years 10-11 hours
12-18 years 8-9 hours
Nutrition is also hugely important. Sugar, caffeine and food coloring can increase jitters and should be limited. A good balanced breakfast with protein can help your child start the day calmly. My favorite go-to are what my children call “Mommy Pancakes”:
2 eggs (can use flax eggs)
1 ripe banana
1-2 Tbsp bone broth
1/4 cup vegetable (spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, sweet potato are some favorites)
Combine in blender and cook and flip on the griddle like pancakes!
It is never too early to introduce your child to relaxation techniques. It is a stress filled world and we need to show our children how to counteract that stress. Let them see you taking a few minutes to sit still and concentrate on your breathing. Tell them what you are doing. Children copy what they see and don’t be surprised if even your youngest child climbs up on your lap to experience belly breathing.
Kids as young as three can practice belly breathing. It’s important to have kids first practice when they are in a relaxed state. Bedtime is a great place to practice belly breathing. Once they have the feel of belly breathing mastered, then they can apply it to when they’re feeling stressed.
- Start by having your child breathe normally. Ask them if they notice anything about it. What parts of their body move as they breathe? What does it feel like?
- Now have them lie on their backs and place their hands on their bellies.
- With their mouths closed, have them breathe in for four seconds or until they feel their whole chest fill with air all the way down to their belly.
- Have them hold in the air for four seconds.
- Then have them slowly blow all the air out until it’s all gone.
- Repeat until the body feels relaxed.
Words of affirmation can be very beneficial for kids of all ages. From self-esteem building to reinforcing kindness and friendship, positive affirmations are a great tool to practice to help your child feel confident in tackling a new school year. Like watching you take a time out and breathe, kids will also mimic affirming themselves. Just yesterday, I overheard my little preschooler from the back seat saying, “I am brave. I am kind. And I got this!”
A child who seeks comfort with a security object is often one whose need for love and attention has been met consistently by his parents. Not only are these objects a sign of healthy development, but they serve a valuable purpose. Transitional items are helpful in any situation where a child feels anxiety or stress. When your child is separated from you — at day care, school, or for that first sleepover, for example — it allows him to take along a little piece of home that reminds him of his mom, dad, or in our family’s case….big brother.
My sweet 5 year old, who struggled with separation anxiety himself, made a transitional object for his little 2 year-old brother when he headed off to his first day of nursery school. Drawing from his own experience, and remembering what helped him , this sweet boy drew a picture of himself with a big heart, symbolizing his love for his little brother. Our little one lovingly referred to this as his “brave newspaper” and brought it to school every day forward, without shedding one more tear.
Megan Jolin of Mother Earth Mama is a board certified Holistic Pediatric Nurse Practitioner whose passion is to bring health and wellness to the whole child.
Megan provides evidenced-based, family centered care in:
-prenatal health and wellness
-nutritional analysis and counseling
-toxin free home environment
-self care for parents and children
-natural/integrative approach to common childhood illnesses
Disclaimer: Content on this site is for reference purposes and is not a substitute for advice from your health care professional. You should not rely solely on this content, and Mother Earth Mama assumes no liability for inaccuracies. These products and recommendations are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition.