How To Create Emotional Back-To-School Structure

The return to school typically is all about logistics: figuring out schedules, finding school supplies, getting into homework routines. But creating emotional structure during this busy, transitional time of year is crucial. These 6 tips will help you create emotional back-to-school structure for your kids.

1. Foster familiarity

Going back to school feels a lot better when you recognize a friend. Take advantage of school-arranged class play dates or arrange them on your own. If possible, visit the school and playground in advance. Familiarity breeds comfort.

2. Hold the criticism

If you’re not enthusiastic about your child's assigned teacher, keep a lid on your feelings. Do it for the simple reason that you are not your child. You and s/he will have different likes and dislikes all through life, and that's a healthy phenomenon. My daughters were assigned a second grade teacher I was not wild about, but lo and behold she was both Emmy and Jessie's favorite elementary school teacher. Good thing I didn't bias them against her. They might have had to work harder to like and trust her—and learned less—in the interim!

3. Model good behavior toward your own commitments

Parenting definitely is not about what we say, it’s about what we do. If you want your kids to get up, get dressed, eat a good breakfast, do their homework, etc., then you need to do the same things—be timely, eat well, complete tasks, etc.

4. Keep your eyesand mindopen

As your child moves through the school year, watch how s/he responds. Schools have different personalities and some will be a better/worse fit for your little person. We sent our daughter Em to a private pre-school that was quite academic, with very little playtime, and she clearly wasn’t happy there. At the end of the year we moved her to public school, which ended up being perfect for her. Keep in mind that it's not the end of the world if the scenario you thought would be perfect doesn't work can change course!

5. Create an atmosphere where your children can vent/voice their feelings

I can't highlight this point enough and it can be challenging to implement, particularly if you tend towards privacy yourself and like to get a handle on your problems before talking about them. But the key is to remember that sometimes kids just need to air their feelings, without the parent denying or judging the feelings or trying to solve the problem. Just listen.

6. Give your child choices

Simple acts such as giving your child choice over their lunch box, backpack, or fall sweater serves to give them control and a sense of identity in a world where they don't have much control.

These 6 tips will help you create emotional back-to-school structure for your kids.

These 6 tips will help you create emotional back-to-school structure for your kids.