Making the switch from summer break to daily class assignments and homework can be challenging. Parents can help their kids make the transition easier and less stressful by following a few simple guidelines.
Keeping a few specific tips in mind can make a big difference, according to Genesee Intermediate School District Social Emotional Specialist Katrina Burnham, who says teaching children how to deal with stress can build self-confidence and critical coping skills.
Stress levels are related to outlook, according to Burnham, who says that when kids and adults are exposed to more positive ways to view life’s stressors and have tools to manage and overcome challenges, outcomes are likely to be more favorable.
Feeling a sense of control and autonomy is critical, according to the specialist.
“Stress comes in many forms,” says Burnham. “You can have too much to do, too many responsibilities, or even very few burdens, and still feel stressed.
“How you respond to stress makes all the difference,” says Burnham. “Teaching kids to expect challenges and to see them as ‘opportunities to be problem solvers’ helps set them up for success and makes them less likely to feel frequently overwhelmed or stressed. For example, instead of a parent telling their child ‘I’m so sorry you’re so busy,’ they can turn around the conversation with an empowering statement like, ‘You have a lot to do today. What’s the most important thing that you should start with first?’
“It’s about building skills and self-confidence,” says Burnham.” It’s these factors that prevent us from becoming overwhelmed by barriers and stressors.”
Planning ahead helps maintain a healthier home environment, according to Burnham who recommends parents encourage:
- Rest – A good night’s sleep lessens the physical effects of stress and anxiety. It’s not uncommon for students to feel challenged by new routines and expectations. Making sure they have enough rest to face the day ahead helps promote success.
- Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule during the school week and weekends is key. This means going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend the following sleep guidelines. For more specific support use the Bedtime Calculator.
-Children 3 to 5 years old: 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
-Youth 6 to 12 years old: 9 to 12 hours
-Teens 13 to 18 years old: 8 to 10 hours
- Support – Spending uninterrupted time with children is important for parents to remind them they’re not alone in dealing with daily challenges, according to Burnham.
- Coping skills – Parents should show students “how to take care of themselves mentally and physically,” adds Burnham. For example, teaching children about proper diet and exercise gives them key tools to reduce stress.
“Often, one of the best ways we can teach our kids healthy habits is to model good behavior,” says Burnham. “Parents can teach children how to respond to daily pressures by showing more than telling,
“Kids look up to us,” says Burnham. “So we have to be good role models and take care of ourselves. When they see us doing this, they are more likely to follow our lead,” she says. “Sleep enough, look for the good in the world, and be the good.”