Summer’s drawing to an end: While your children may not say it overtly, they are feeling the effects of the new school year creeping closer. From back-to-school commercials to adjusting to bedtime routines, the transition from summer to school time is as stark as day and night.
We’re sure you’re feeling it, too! It’s no small feat to walk your little one through orientation or first-day jitters or hand the car keys over to your teen. We’re cheering you on and compiled some back-to-school ideas that may ease the transition.
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Table of Contents... jump to what piques your interest!
How to Ease the Transition Back to School
Parenting Tip #1: Define success and meaningful goals with your child.
A real-life example of a parent supporting a child's goal.
Parenting Tip #2: Do school shopping together and have fun!
Building Children's Self-Esteem Through Shopping
Parenting Tip #3: Teach your child how to self-motivate.
Parenting Tip #4: Polish your empathetic listening skills.
Ways to Empathize with Your Children
Parenting Tip #5: Encourage your child to make friends—and be a good friend.
Final Thoughts and Recap
Frequently Asked Questions
How to Ease the Transition Back to School
Are you looking for ways to support your child’s academic success and ease the transition back to school?
Here are five ways you can help your child prepare for school—both hands-on and from a distance!
- Define success and meaningful goals with your child.
- Shop together—and have fun.
- Teach your child how to self-motivate.
- Polish your empathic listening skills.
- Encourage your child to make friends.
As you prepare for a new beginning, use this season as a reminder to build your child's resilience, confidence, and excitement for the new school year ahead. Knowing what success looks like is the first step in building it!
Related Reading: How to Teach Your Child Emotional Regulation Skills.
PARENTING TIP #1: Define success and meaningful goals with your child.
In its simplest form, success is being the best version of yourself. When we hold ourselves accountable to be our best, there’s no telling what we can accomplish. The same goes for your kids!
When your child is still little, success to them might be showing off their artwork on the fridge with their favorite magnet. Yet, with every passing birthday, their abilities and priorities shift. Staying ahead of that curve will help pave a smooth path.
We tend to offer treats, medals, trophies, and ribbons to reward our children for their achievements. One of my granddaughter’s leagues gave everyone on the team an MVP award. Granted she was only five, but could we be altering our child’s understanding of success and what it requires to build a skill?
For instance, one child doesn’t apply themselves, they’re late for practices, miss half the games, and did very little to cheer others on. Another child works super hard, attends every game, and is an inspiration to the whole team. Should both children be awarded the same?
Fast forward to a soccer camp this summer, when kids goofed off, didn’t focus or apply themselves, they didn’t get awards. My granddaughter was one of them and she would have none of that! At the next camp, she engaged wholeheartedly.
While it’s great to aspire towards tangible rewards, that’s only a small part of what success is about!
Intrinsic motivation is fueled by passion and the pleasure gleaned from excellence from within. This type of motivation doesn't depend on anything outside of us and therefore, it's what you want to encourage in your children. When expecting outside rewards, it can be difficult to motivate when the effort exceeds the reward.
Some parents encourage extra-curricular activities just as much as working toward high grades. Others may encourage their child to break out of their shell a bit more instead of keeping their heads down in their books all semester. For each child, their goals will be unique and what motivates them will also be distinct.
Goal setting helps put a focus on your child’s efforts! Have an honest discussion about what they want to accomplish and need to feel successful. You might be surprised at how well they know themselves!
Real-Life Example of Supporting a Child's Goal and Dream
For example, take Megan and her 13-year-old daughter, Lyla. Lyla wants to be a chef when she gets older. She’s still a long way off from becoming one but that doesn’t mean her mom can’t help her map out that path early!
Encouraging a passionate interest or dream is a wonderful way to help a child feel valued and seen. With each experience, confidence waxes.
Taking a nutrition class is a no-brainer, especially when Lyla already knows her way around the kitchen!
Next stop? Joining the Culinary Club, entering the annual baking contest and learning a new recipe on the weekends. Or maybe once a week, she cooks for the whole family! (Wouldn’t you enjoy the night off!?”)
While these goals tap into different areas of her life from academics to extracurriculars, Lyla is still making headway in her dreams of being a chef. And, of course, Mom can also capitalize on quality time together!
Along with these goals, you can teach your child to organize and plan ahead. Getting your child their very own daily planner to write in is a good habit to form. There are dozens of planner styles for boys and girls to match every personality!
A feature they’ll want to have is a space for priorities and a gratitude reminder. This practice boosts a child’s attitude and keeps their eye on what brings joy and gratitude. No matter how small the habit, consistency is crucial to success!
Each day is an opportunity to be better!
Next up, ask your child: “What do you want to enjoy and accomplish this semester?” and watch their imagination run wild.
Here are some potential goals to consider:
- Join the debate club to hone their speaking skills while having fun!
- Score an A+ in English to bounce back from last year’s B
- Learn how to play the guitar to give them a creative outlet.
The path is unique for every parent and child. However, defining what’s truly important is key to keeping life on track and your kids motivated!
PARENTING TIP #2: Do School Shopping Together and Have Fun!
Back-to-school shopping is a tradition and it’s one that gives your child an opportunity to assert their personality and build their confidence.
It also can be a last-minute, rushed nightmare so don’t let that happen.
Plan a day to spend together and go out for lunch or let them make a list and plan the shopping day.
It is through sharing what they like and dislike that you get a feel of who your child is (and who they’re becoming). Encourage them to pick school clothes they feel great in and supplies that they actually use!
If your child is picky, try narrowing down the options for them. Here are some cues to use:
- “Plain, glitter, polka dots or stripes?”
- “Do you prefer spiral notebooks or plain ones?”
- “I think you’d look really cute in this. What do you think?”
- “Grab your favorite geometry set from the shelf and hurry back!”
Do you remember when you went back to school shopping at their age? More often than not, parents hand-picked outfits and supplies that you didn’t like because they snatched back-to-school sales.
Perhaps you've done that, too, or shopped yourself because it was faster and just plain more efficient. Been there, done that!
Building Children's Self-Esteem through Shopping!
However, shopping together with your children and letting them lead while also allowing them to pick out items that align with their tastes can:
- help them stay organized and productive.
- give decision-making practice.
- increase confidence through practicing thinking skills.
- boost their ownership of the style they want.
- clarify what's important to them.
(My kids could care less about pencils being colorful but were adamant about mechanical rather than #2 yellow pencils with erasers—something I would have never chosen.)
- weight costs against values.
- create an opportunity for them to talk and process the back-to-school jitters.
- provide greater ownership that helps them value the purchase.
(I saved a ton of money on school supplies because my tastes are much more particular than my children's have ever been. And I got the added bonus of learning what mattered to them and what didn't! When it came to an algebra or calculus calculator, they wanted good quality. But with most stuff, they wanted the cheapest.)
Do you still want to do all the shopping for them?
PARENTING TIP #3: Teach your child how to self-motivate.
Self-motivation is the ability to find the internal drive not only to get things done but to focus on what is most important to us. You may work out at a gym or practice yoga even when you feel your worst. Your children are still discovering internal motivation and it needs to be encouraged.
One way for your child to practice self-motivation is to jot down their goals. There’s no better way of doing this than with pen and paper, or better yet, they can do it in their new daytimer!
Journaling also does wonders for your child’s emotional well-being; research shows that it helps process feelings and improves emotional regulation. Writing allows them to vent their frustrations: The good, the bad and the downright disastrous, as well as their successes. It’s healthier than keeping their new and unexplored feelings bottled up inside.
Better emotional well-being leads to reduced stress, anxiety and overwhelm. These seventy participants experienced just that!
Your child can also self-motivate with words of affirmation, quotes and even doodles that they find inspirational! So long as they can make sense of their scribbles, the journal is already worth its weight in gold.
Related reading: "What You Need to Know about Children's Cognitive Development."
PARENTING TIP #4: Polish your empathic listening skills
We’re all occasionally guilty of getting caught up in a phone call with a friend or relative for too long, oblivious of the present moment.
But what do you do when your child tugs on your shirt to grab your attention?
Or a teen rolls their eyes as they “impatiently” wait to get to a friend’s house?
Do you politely conclude the call and intently listen to them or ignore them until you’re finished? (Of course, sometimes a needed conversation may necessitate them waiting. However, check in to see. Did you say it would be a quick five-minute call and it turned into twenty?)
No matter the situation, your child’s reaction may be a fabulous time to work on your empathic skills.
Thankfully, empathy and positive parenting are the main tools you’ll need.
Positive parenting is just that: parenting in a way that meshes love and kindness with gentle discipline. By throwing empathy into the mix, you’ll also be supportive and nonjudgmental. Both tap into your emotional intelligence arsenal.
As your child jet-skis into the new school year, they need to have a safe space to vent their frustrations from their day-to-day life. That’s where you fit in!
When your child comes home with a complaint about the class seat arrangements on the first day of school, it may seem minor to you, but it's not in your child's world! When they find out they’re sitting way in the back, three rows away from their good friends, it's empathy to the rescue! A child needs to feel heard so life is doable.
One of the most frustrating and lonely experiences is not feeling listened to. While you have far more experience with coping, your child is still learning how to navigate their emotions.
Feeling heard is a core need for us all! And as a parent, it’s part of your job description to help them weather the ups and downs. Teach them how to find their ground no matter what happens. Empathy is the pathway to emotions turning into actions.
Ways to Empathize with Your Children
Here are some actionable tips to practice empathic listening:
Take them seriously. Allow your children to freely express their emotions regardless of how insignificant their woes might seem in the midst of your endless responsibilities. Pay attention. Being present to capture these moments requires you to be attentive to their body language (even when they don’t open up on their own). Although it may be inconvenient, it’s more important to have a heart-to-heart than get a jump on dinner. Trust me, these opportunities don't always circle back.
Empathize with their feelings. If something is clearly upsetting them, take the time to understand what’s bugging them and why it is affecting their mood. Your caring presence signals your child that they’re not alone in their problems and they can count on you—even when you have a mile-long to-do list pulling on you.
Follow up with your children. Their situation hasn’t ended just because they’re done venting! Check on them the following day and consistently monitor their demeanor. This follow-through shows them that you’re interested and that you don’t have an expectation for them just to buck up and move on. You give permission to feel, to grapple with life.
They might have already left the problem in the rearview mirror; if they have, great! Then affirm them and celebrate their problem-solving skills.
Offer advice (when prompted). In some cases, your child just wants to be heard. At other times, they’ll appreciate your advice. However, many parents make the mistake of giving unsolicited advice—don't make this misstep. Ask if they want some help and if not, leave it alone for the time being. If they request advice, great! Then, be sure to give them an actionable step to flex their EQ muscles.
Related Reading: Back to School: 3 Simple Parenting Strategies to Ease Summer's End
#5: Encourage your child to make friends—and be a good friend.
Some friendships can withstand the passage of time. I’m sure you can relate! Chances are, the friends that come to mind are the ones that you made during your school years. And it’s always a great practice to develop new friendships, too.
As luck would have it, the statistics associated with childhood friendships are positive with as many as sixty-seven percent of Americans having a friendship dating back to childhood. These timeless connections are precious. And there really isn't anything that makes a child or teen feel more secure than having at least one good friend.
If making friends happened to be one of your child’s strengths, super! However, if they have a more difficult time or are on the introverted side, these ideas might make the difference:
- Help your child build confidence in making friends.
- Assist them in overcoming obstacles whether that’s a little shyness, a lack of confidence, or not knowing how to break into a group of peers.
- Help them assess their strengths to counter their insecurities.
- Encourage them to interact with their classmates using their natural gifts, including new kids or ones they don’t know very well.
- Rehearse and teach new skills.
They can start building lifelong friendships on the playground, in groups or school activities and even with the kids sitting next to them in class!
Breaking out of familiarity can do them a world of good but let them know it’s natural to feel uneasy. Anything new and foreign to our brains will often be uncomfortable, especially when young.
Encourage your child to take risks. Nudge them to welcome someone new into their circle of friends. When my kids were young, I asked them to imagine an undiscovered, lifelong friendship they would miss out on without the initial effort and minor social discomfort. (And they still have some of those same friends today as young adults!)
Lastly, prompt them to BE a good friend. Provide them with the ingredients of HOW to be a good friend. Children need to learn early on that they need to be a match for what they want in life. Cultivating traits such as loyalty, kindness, helpfulness, and humor strengthens friendships.
Yet, it can be challenging when peers exclude someone. Help your child develop the courage to speak up and befriend those who need a friend.
If your child succeeds with budding new friendships, you may see more sleepovers, study sessions, and movie nights from your child.
You’re welcome in advance!
Nothing says welcome back to school louder than a child who’s motivated and confident for the year ahead. To recap, here are the simple strategies we’ve discussed:
- Define success and goals with your child as a foundation for the new school year.
- Do school shopping together and have fun!
- Teach your children how to self-motivate, focusing on intrinsic motivation.
- Polish up on your empathic listening skills.
- Encourage your child to make friends and be a good friend.
By no means is this list exhaustive. There’s always more to learn and dozens of ways to support our children, especially when it comes to your child’s budding self-esteem and success!
Frequently Asked Questions:
How can I help my child with back-to-school jitters?
Most anxious feelings are natural when children and teens head back to school. Let them talk about their concerns and play the "What if?" game by brainstorming solutions to all of their challenges and fears. Have the child come up with worst-case scenarios, such as "What if I don't make any friends?" or "What if I get a really tough teacher?" Then, come up with creative ideas on how to handle the situation. This activity helps to arm children with more skills in a fun way. The game is particularly helpful when played as a family to draw on older siblings' confidence and skills.
What are natural ways to build my child's immune system?
If you want to get a jump on building your children's immune system, read our article on essential oils: "Back to School Essential Oils to Support Your Kid's Health."
Studies have also found that essential oils are helpful in soothing anxiety and helping with better sleep in both adults and children! When your child has fewer problems plaguing their mind, they can focus on more important things.
To learn more about emotional intelligence or if you want customized parent coaching, contact us at email@example.com.