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Whether starting their first day of Pre-K or their last year of high school, back-to-school season can stir feelings of anxiety, stress and even fear in our kids. Good news. “There are resources available that parents and kids can use to help the transition go a little more smoothly and help to boost success throughout the school year, says Kari Collins, director of mental health services at the Montefiore School Health Program.
She offers the following tips to help you and yours have a smooth start to the new school year:
Lead by example:
Children can sense when their parent is anxious so remain upbeat and optimistic when talking about the new grade or school – highlight how exciting it is to meet new people and make new friends.
Let your child know that being nervous is a normal feeling and that they will feel more comfortable as time goes on. Share examples of how you felt during your first day at school or a new job and explain that these feelings can be overcome.
For preschoolers, set up group play-dates with other children to help them prepare for their new shared environment.
For pre-k and elementary kids, teach them how to introduce themselves to new people. Role play and practice saying “Hi, my name is Jane; what’s yours?” Of course it’s important to emphasize the difference between talking to peers and strangers.
While many parents get the impression their teen wants to handle things on their own, it’s important to know what’s going on in your child’s life and offer support and guidance. Get to know the parenting coordinator at school, register for email updates to be alerted about exams, college fairs, application deadlines and big sporting events. Sign up to receive the academic calendar and make sure you check-in with your teen when an important date is approaching so you can offer assistance and let them know you’re there for them.
Let your child choose one after-school activity. They may want to join the cheerleading squad while you want them to join the math club. Provide support and guidance, with the final decision being the result of compromise and what makes most sense for your teen’s schedule and level of commitment.
High school can be the most trying time of all, with more intense academic pressures and a new peer group, it can take longer to adjust. If you’re still concerned about your teen’s ability to cope with their new environment after the first month of school, seek out resources and assistance from the guidance counselor.
Help middle and high-school kids feel comfortable expressing their frustrations and stress. And, work on a plan together to make their commitments more manageable.
With at least a week behind you now, maybe you’ve learned something worth sharing with the rest us?