There are so many things to consider when preparing the family for a successful start to the school year; from shopping for back-to-school supplies and coordinating carpools to scheduling after-school activities.
“But don’t forget, it’s a transition for the whole family when children go back to school,” says Wendy Levin-Shaw, a licensed clinical therapist at Squirrel Hill Psychological Services (SHPS). “People get caught up in the details of an event, and they can sometimes forget about the real importance behind it.”
Wendy works with parents and children at SHPS and says that children of all ages may have some reluctance and mixed feelings about returning to school. Those who are feeling exceptionally anxious may engage in unpleasant or inappropriate behaviors rather than express themselves in a constructive way. These behaviors may indicate there is an underlying emotion – anxiety, fearfulness or sadness – that needs to be addressed to ensure a child is happy and healthy throughout the school year.
Most of the time, Wendy suggests parents can help their children work through their reluctance and communicate their feelings about going back to school by enlisting some of the following techniques.
- Conduct an initial family discussion – As the new school year approaches, Wendy suggests that families use the end of summer as a focal point for discussion. “Sit down and discuss the transition from summer to the school year. Focus on what your children did and didn’t like about their summer break and what they’re looking forward to, or not looking forward to, during the new school year. Allow them to discuss any thoughts they have about going back to school,” she says. “Take the opportunity to make this a family ritual by having a special meal together at the dinner table or going out for ice cream.”
- Encourage ongoing communication – Wendy suggests that after an initial back-to-school discussion, parents should conduct frequent family follow-ups as the school year progresses. “Ongoing, open communication is key to ensuring everyone in the family is satisfied with how the school year is going,” Wendy says.
- Contact SHPS for support – If you’ve tried communicating with your child or teen but still need assistance in guiding them through their difficulties, SHPS can help. We understand family dynamics and the unique needs of young clients. Our therapists specialize in working with families with children and adolescents, and they can help your child overcome his or her challenges.
Whether it’s back-to-school time or other lifecycle transitions and crises, ongoing communication can help children, adolescents and their families cope with challenges. Sometimes though, additional guidance is needed. We’re here to help. If you would like more information about counseling options available at SHPS, please visit our website or call 412-521-3800.