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Getting a Child’s (and Parent’s!) Mental Health in Shape for a Great Start to the School Year

Mental Health in Shape for a Great Start to the School YearThe school year is upon us and kids will be returning to academics once again. Parents will be adjusting to the back to school season with all that the transition brings. There may be stress, exhaustion, lack of sleep, busyness, chaos, and irritation, but there may also be optimism, excitement, hope, energy, and enthusiasm.

To help your children and yourself have a less stressful and more positive experience with the back to school season, it is helpful to work on getting your children’s mental health in shape to help them start the next school year with a healthy, stable and strong mind.

Tips to Improve Mental Wellness
Here are some things you can do to improve the mental wellness of your children particularly as it relates to preparing them for returning to school. This, of course, will ultimately make things easier on you, too!

Start going to bed early1
Maybe your kids have been staying up late all summer. Begin going to bed earlier a week or so before school starts to ensure your child wakes up in time. Depending on what their sleep schedule currently looks like, either immediately have them going to bed and waking up at those times or make it a more gradual process by starting with (for example) two hours past their bedtime and take a half an hour away every few days. Do the same for yourself.

Wake up the academic brain
To make going back to school easier, it is important to help them get used to thinking about academics and learning again. Without consistent and frequent practicing of appropriate academic material during the summer, children can lose some of what they learned in the previous year. Additionally, schoolwork requires certain brain processes to occur in order for children to perform well. Therefore, to ensure a great start when the school year begins, help your child to more easily access his academic and learning areas of the brain by including small learning times every day.

Focus, focus, focus!
More and more kids are struggling with being able to stay focused in school. There are high expectations on what children are expected to achieve at school and how long they need to hold their focus and attention each day. Many kids, even kids who aren’t diagnosed with ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) can benefit from working on maintaining great focus and attention skills. To do this, you can help your child practice this skill in the upcoming weeks so that when school begins, his brain and mental abilities  will be stronger in the area of focus and attention. By working on this aspect of mental health and training the brain to overcome distractibility, your child will have a great start to not only academics but also home life.

Reread summer reading
Many schools have summer reading due by the first day of school. Be sure to review the assignment and perhaps reread the assigned literature. Do not be tempted by online resources to do the work for your child, because when it comes to the exam, your child may be at a disadvantage.

Tour the school and follow schedules
Most schools will be open for your child to go and practice going through their schedule. Apart from finding their classrooms, have your child figure out when they will be visiting their locker.

Family calendar
Either on a physical calendar or on your smartphone/tablet, have your child or you begin entering activities and events. By doing this, you and your child will know where everyone is during the day and who will pick up whom from activities.

Tutoring
Some children need a little extra help. Scheduling your tutor ahead of time will mentally prepare your child and the tutor for their meeting. Be sure you make it clear to the tutor what you want your child to work on.

Check out your public library
When it comes to research and tutoring opportunities, public libraries have a lot to offer. You and your child should visit your public library before school starts and discuss with them the resources they have during the school year.

High school kids should speak to a guidance counselor
High school grades are critical for college preparation or preparing for the work force. If your child has not spoken to their guidance counselor yet, schedule an appointment with them.

Lunch options
Be sure to discuss with your child what they are eating for lunch. If they are packing their own lunch, be sure to discuss with them healthy food options. Otherwise, be sure their lunch accounts have money in them or they have enough cash each day to pay.

Clean up your room
An organized room means an organized mind. Have your child clean their room (and maybe everyone can clean the house) before school starts.

Helping Kids Have Success
Helping your child to have success with the transition of going back to school will be a great benefit to their well-being and an experience that will influence how this upcoming year (and possibly even future years) will go.

1  Gilmore, H (2013). Back to School: Getting Your Child’s Mental Health in Shape for a Great Start to the School Year.
Retrieved: http://pro.psychcentral.com/child-therapist/2014/08/back-to-school-getting-your-childs-mental-health-in-
shape-for-a-great-start-to-the-school-year/