Contributed by: Austin Raines, LCMHCA

The start of the school year is back on the horizon, and it’s never too early to start planning ahead. This allows students and parents to do everything in their power to make this upcoming school year as successful as possible. Parents play an important role in assisting their kids as they transition into a new academic year. By providing a supportive and encouraging environment, parents can foster a positive educational experience for their kids. Here are some effective ways parents can support their children as they head back to school:

  1. Set realistic expectations: When we put unrealistic expectations on our children, it can quickly feel like a burden that’s too heavy to carry over the course of the school year. When the expectations are too lofty, we can see kids succumb to this pressure. Sit down with your child and discuss their academic goals, extracurricular activities, and other commitments. Encourage them to strive for personal growth rather than perfection, emphasizing that effort and progress are more important than outcomes. With all of the exterior pressures kids are facing, being able to accept that your child is doing the best they can in this particular moment is incredibly important. With that being said, there is a delicate balance in finding the line for setting expectations that can challenge your children to do the best they can, while also making sure the goals are realistic. It’s important to remember that your child is a unique human being with their own personality, abilities, and struggles. Don’t create expectations based on how your other children performed or how peers are performing. Create goals tailor-made for your child.
  2. Facilitate Open Communication: Encourage open and honest communication with your child. Work to create a judgement-free space where they can openly express their thoughts, concerns, and expectations about the upcoming school year. Creating this space can be much easier said than done. Oftentimes, parents bring their own past experiences about school-related concerns into the conversation, which can lead to parents responding in an either overly emotional or overly rational way. Communicating with your child from a perspective that integrates both emotion and reason will assist you in reacting mindfully. This will allow the direct concern your child is struggling with to be responded to effectively. Actively listen to and validate the needs of your child and provide guidance when necessary. Regularly check in with them about their progress and address any challenges they may be facing.
  3. Establish a Consistent Routine: Create a consistent, daily routine that includes designated study time, regular sleep schedules, and well-balanced meals. A structured routine helps children develop time management skills, reduces stress, and improves overall well-being. Your children are sent into an environment that can be highly stressful and packed with pressure to meet various expectations. Whether they are expected to perform well in school, in extracurriculars, or with friends, having a consistent routine set in place for your kids can help them feel safe and secure. Adding that sense of security can help them feel in control of their environment and reduce stress. Collaborate with your child to create a schedule that best fits their needs and allows for flexibility when necessary.
  4. Advocate for Your Child: One of the most overlooked aspects of going back to school is not being aware of the school resources available to your child. Whether it’s various mental health services like counseling, psychological testing, or academic-based services such as tutoring or advising. Potentially, the most important reason to be informed is that it displays to your child that you are here for them and want to do everything in your power to advocate for them. Secondly, you can help your student maximize their potential and help them accomplish their goals. Attend parent-teacher conferences, communicate with their teachers, and actively participate in school events. Advocate for your child’s needs when necessary, ensuring they receive the appropriate support and accommodations. The easiest way to get connected is to set up a meeting with your child’s school counselor to go over all the potential resources available to your student.  
  5. Encourage Social Connections: Of all the school-related challenges your children have faced over the past three years, losing valuable social time with teachers, peers, and friends has potentially been the most destructive. Going back to a regular school environment, the constant social interaction can feel uncomfortable and exhausting for your child. Many unhealthy social habits have formed to cope with the unfamiliar number of social interactions students are called to engage in. By supporting your child in creating positive social connections at school, their mental and physical well-being will benefit. Strong social connections at school are directly linked to a decrease in anxiety, depression, and stress, while also boosting resilience. The best way to start helping is to identify your child’s interests and passions. From there, encourage them to participate in clubs, sports, or other extracurricular activities that align with those interests. Facilitate get-togethers with classmates, promoting a sense of belonging and friendship. Your child may express concerns about the new number of social experiences they are going through as this could feel uncomfortable starting off. However, with time and practice, heightening social competency is possible.

Parents play a vital role in supporting their children as they head back to school. By establishing open communication, setting realistic expectations, providing a balanced structure, and encouraging social connections, parents can create an environment that empowers their children to thrive academically and emotionally. With parental support, children can confidently embrace the new school year and maximize their full potential.