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Helping your child navigate the return to school

Helping your child navigate the return to school

By Jay Scheurle |

Last night, nationally recognized expert on relationships and family life, Lynne Reeves Griffin, met with parents during our evening Parent Forum. It was an opportunity for parents to talk about how things are going for their child this school year, and to ask questions. Last night’s event was especially planned for parents of younger children. Next Thursday, September 24th, Lynne will return for another Parent Forum at 8pm to speak with parents of students in the elementary and middle school programs, although all parents are welcome to attend the event next week, regardless of the age of your child.

Common themes shared last night:

  • We’re still living in a time of crisis, and this affects the level of stress for children and adults. This means that when we run into difficulties, we are more likely than ever to feel overwhelmed.
  • Because of this, it’s important for all of us to tap into our coping skills.
  • If we’re working with a child who is feeling high emotions, it’s important to allow room for those emotions to be expressed and even validated. Then in a more relaxed moment in time, when everyone is calm, it becomes possible to work through the challenges and problems and come up with solutions and strategies to use the next time these emotions might be triggered again.

Lynne answers parent questions:

  • What’s the best way to find out how the school day has gone for my child? Just asking your child, “how was your day today?” may not prompt a useful response. During COVID, asking a question like this may actually make your child feel more stressed. Consider instead sharing something from your day, about how you were feeling in your day, or something that happened in your day. That may be an easier way for your child to connect with your emotions and share something back with you about the school day. Another option might be to ask something like, “what’s on your mind?”
  • What if my child is having trouble separating from parents at drop-off? When this happens, your child may feel her/his whole body is trapped in emotions, and that’s not going to be the best time to help your child learn ways to bring those emotions under control. So find a time when your child is not clingy. It might be at night, or even on the weekend. When emotions are calmer, you will be better able to have a conversation about strategies. What might help your child separate from parents at drop-off? Tap into something that makes your child feel calm. Maybe it’s a teddy bear that waves to the child. Maybe it’s a song that you sing together. What’s something that your child can focus on at drop-off to remember that everything is going to be okay? This gives your child something to focus on at drop-off, and it helps your child learn how to develop effective coping skills.
  • We’re seeing a lot of delay tactics before our child goes to bed. My child has so much energy in the evening. What can parents do? Build a nighttime routine that calms the neurological system. Bring stimulations down. No rigorous physical activity or stimulating TV. Consider aromatherapy, yoga poses, long baths, audio books or listening to a story. Parents can model for children how getting closer to bedtime is getting closer to calming. Another strategy is to change the schedule. Do things earlier in the evening. Have dinner earlier. Move what you expect your child to do to an earlier time in the evening so that it doesn’t happen right before bedtime, like putting on PJs or brushing teeth.

What tools are available for parents to help build social-emotional competencies in children? 

At the parent forum last night, Lynne shared a few resources that are helpful to parents. These resources are based on the work of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Please read below to learn more about the Family Charter and the Mood Meter.