Do your best to stick to a bedtime routine, and be consistent with times during the week and the weekend (yep, that means no sleeping in until noon, teens). During holiday breaks, try to maintain your school sleep schedule, and start your routine a few weeks before school starts again after summer or any other prolonged break.
Develop a media-use plan for screen time and phones for every family member (kids and adults). Remember to take all screens out of your room and your child’s room before bed. Not only do screens stimulate our minds before bed and affect our quality of sleep, but they can cause stress and anxiety for children who are texting or engaging on social media up until they fall asleep.
What we eat can have a great impact on our stress and anxiety levels. Use breakfast and dinner as a time to ensure your child eats a balanced diet, and teach her how to make smart choices when away from home, during the day, and after school. For example, if your high-schooler is going for an after-school coffee run, encourage her to choose a noncaffeinated or less-sugary drink.
Organization and Time Management
Keep children involved in managing their time — from homework to activities and free time. Using a visual family calendar is helpful (versus verbally discussing their schedule on the way to school). Finally, do as much as you can the night before school — make lunches, lay out clothes, pack backpacks, bathe, etc.
Let your child’s teacher (and school counselor) know what is happening in your family life. Share big and small life events — from the passing of a family member to a bad day at school, or unexpected emotional time with you. They can help support your child when he is away from home.
This isn’t just the transition into the school year; transition matters every day of the year. Kids need more time to get settled in. Arrive to school 10 to 15 minutes early; same goes for after-school activities and other extracurriculars.
You can begin to practice mindfulness exercises with your child at an early age. These can be daily practices that will become tools for your kid during more stressful times.
Set an Example
The single-most important thing you can do to help your child is to set a positive example for how you handle stress. Perhaps you use breathing exercises, practice daily yoga, go on a run, take quiet time, or write?
When to Seek Additional Help
Occasional stress and anxiety is a normal experience for all. If you see your child experiencing prolonged issues (more than two to three weeks), such as not sleeping at night, loss of appetite, physical symptoms (stomachaches, headaches, blurry vision), or emotional symptoms (being removed or crying a lot), reach out to your child’s teacher and/or school counselor. They can be great starting points to help you find resources. Recommended books are The Mindful Teen by Dzung Vo or Sitting Still like a Frog by Eline Snel. You can also try calm.com or download the MindShift app.
Written by Nancy Waters and Ann Dicks