5 Tips on How Parents Can Prepare Their Pre-Teens for Back-To-School Success
By Joshua J Soto
As summer comes to an end and the new school year begins, parents can often experience stress in getting their kids back school. Stress can include taking your pre-teen or teen shopping for back-to-school supplies and clothes, which may also include tuition if they are attending private school. Some parents may also find themselves feeling worried or concerned if their child is starting at a new school, or starting the new school year with a good start.
1. Invite them to talk:
Managing your workload and the household can result in parent's overlooking their pre-teen's feelings of anxiousness with difficult social situations at school. Pre-teens can find themselves feeling stressed out about understanding their homework, and building and maintaining friendships. Ask your pre-teen if there's anything about going back to school that they are worried about. This lets them know that you're interested and willing to make the time to listen to them.
2. Empathize & Look for Positives
Being a pre-teen can be challenging when you're experiencing changes with both the physical growth of puberty, school, and their social life. Change can be both exciting and difficult for them learning in the classroom and building relationships in their peer group. When you acknowledge what your pre-teen is sharing about school and their peer group you are also letting them know that you're aware of what they're going through, and that you will always be there for them along the way as they need you. While it's normal to have some level of anxiety about starting school, it's important to point out that things may not always be as bad as they make them out to be. It is important to teach resilience by encouraging your pre-teen to face their fears rather than avoid it. Ask them if there's anything that they liked about school last year, and how that can be a part of them starting a new year at school.
3. Start a routine for success
Summer vacation often gives way to both pre-teens and teens developing the bad habit of going to sleep later than usual. Some parents don't mind this during the summer, but the drawback is that it's hard getting them back into good routines. A lack of sleep is often a major factor in how well people deal with stress, and this is never more true than with the developing mind of an adolescent. Starting a regular routine of going to sleep before the first week of school can soften the blow of them having to wake up early or look like a zombie getting ready and out the door. As much as your pre-teen may insist that they can do it on their own (it's not always the case), helping them organize where they keep things like their backpack, binder, and lunch money - can help make the morning go a little smoother.
4. Check in (and follow up) with the teacher
During the first week of school introduce yourself to your pre-teen's teacher. If your pre-teen has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or 504 plan, then it helps to establish a connection with them that lets them know you're open to and invested in their academic success. Don't wait until parent-teacher conference to check in and see how things are going. If you have a parent portal through the school, then you can view your child's grades and attendance, or communicate with teachers by e-mail if that's the preferred way to communicate. The homeroom teacher can be an important ally and advocate for your child's education, and with informing you about anything that comes up before it becomes a serious problem.
5. Don't wait for a problem, ask for help
If you're pre-teen or teen had a hard time with stress or anxiety last school year, then it's possible that it could be a recurrent problem. If you think that the stress this school year may be too much for both you and your pre-teen to handle on your own, then consulting with a therapist will help both you and them better manage and cope.
Whether you are a single parent, or have a spouse, communicate with them about how your child is doing in school and how they are growing. Keep in mind that your pre-teen may face some new challenges this year. Remember that as a parent you can be empowered as the expert on your child and trust that you'll bet there to listen and support them in growing up.
"The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live." ~Mortimer Adler
Joshua Soto, MA is a Marriage and Family Therapist Registered Intern (639) in private practice in Irvine, CA. Josh specializes in working with pre-teens, teens, and young adults. Josh also facilitates counseling groups to assist young people to learn mindfulness, social skills, and healthy coping skills to manage stress at home and at school. He is employed and supervised by Dr. Renee Miller, LMFT (43207) at 18023 Sky Park Circle, Suite G, Irvine, CA. Josh is accepting new clients and can be reached at (714) 422-0396