I am hearing from a lot of mamas and papas about their kiddos feeling stressed about the upcoming school year. Today I wanted to pull in one of our kid and family experts, Krista Curl.

Angela: Krista, you get to work with so many kids and teens. What kinds of tips and strategies would you have for kids who are feeling stressed out about the new school year?

Krista: The first thing I would recommend is to go ahead and start your back to school routine at least a week before school starts. You want their bedtime routine set in place and you even want their morning routine set in place too. Really think about what you want your kiddo doing in the morning to get ready for school. You want to do this a week in advance that way they are all transitioned and you’re minimizing the number of transitions you’re doing in a row the day of and they’re well rested and better ready to cope with the new school year.

Angela: Awesome, yeah. That definitely helps. What are some other strategies that you know work well with kids?

Krista: I really like it when kids have an opportunity to explore their space, play on the playground, see where they’re lining up at the beginning of the day, etc. I know schools have a back to school warming welcome that they do for folks, but you can take your kiddo if they’re feeling really nervous to get used to it at their own pace.

Angela: Okay, so an extra trip to the school playground to let them really get familiar with the whole area.

Krista: Yeah. Kids are physical creatures. If they are comfortable in their physical space and they have the time and patience to do that on their own, they’ll feel much better about school at the beginning of the school year.

Angela: Okay. Now, what if I’m worried about how my kid is going to feel during the school day? What would be something I can do proactively?

Krista: Sometimes little kiddos just need a bit of a pep talk. Because kids are physical folk, you could get a little object like a rock that they like or a toy that could be a part of their back to school supplies, and you can give them a good pep talk about it. “You know when you hold this, you can do anything.” Whatever your kid is struggling with whether it be confidence, or being away from you for the day, this is what this object means. It means you can do it or mommy loves you and that way they have it with them throughout the day. It’s called a transitional object and it just helps them throughout the day as they adjust to something that’s new.

Angela: Cool. So it’s a nice little physical reminder that “I believe in you, you’ve got this.”

Krista: Yeah!

Angela: Awesome. Now what about kids like my teens who are a little bit too old for that?

Krista: Yeah. When folks are older and they’re stressed out about school whether it be middle school or high school age, it’s usually peer related. They’re usually stressed out about people being there and about what people think of them. I’m really a huge fan of coaching them in advance and saying, “When are your friends going to be there? Who are your allies (typically their friends)? When will you see them throughout the day? What will you be doing throughout lunch?” Kind of walk them through their school day and remind them, “yeah it will be stressful, you’ll be in these new classes with new people, but you’ll also have these resources there.” It’s really hard for kiddos at that age to remember that. So, if you walk them through their day before their first day back to school, they will have that in their back pocket the first day and can remind themselves “Okay, I have these friends, this is when I’m seeing them.” That will help them with their resilience throughout the day.

Angela: So, open up more conversations now about the flow of their school day and remind them that those buddies are kind of like their touch stones that they get to see from time to time throughout the day to help them through.

Krista: Yeah and it’s hard for kids to navigate that on their own. If you can walk them through their day even in a sports psychology coaching kind of way, it can help them mentally prepare for that kind of stress and let them know who their resources are and what they can do to help themselves.

Angela: Okay so be pretty concrete with them.

Krista: Yeah.

Angela: Great! Wonderful tips, good luck to all of you out your with your back to school transitions.

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