As you are preparing for your kids to return to school soon, now is the time to explore changes in your routines and home. Below are some tips just for parents!
Create a work space at home for your child. Maybe they have a desk or table in their room they already use. Help them clean it off, get rid of any extras that may clutter it. Also, take a glance over their workspace and look for things that may be distracting to them. Make sure toys aren't in close reach where they will be tempted to reach out and play with instead of doing homework. Help your kids create a homework routine for after school and include any breaks or snacks they may need to be successful.
Study up on the developing brain. This can be fascinating to understand what all is going on in your brain. The brain changes a lot as kids are school age and you see this especially with the teen years. Here the brain begins "pruning" which is just what it sounds like. The brain starts to strengthen synapses or eliminate ones. This process can led to more emotional or erratic behaviors you may see in your teen. This can be the onset of anxiety, depression or substance abuse as well. It's important to keep communication open with your teens during these changes. Help them understand how their brain is changing as well.
Remember: Anxious parents can make for anxious kids. Genetics can contribute to anxiety, yes. But so does environment. We call this the stress diathesis model. Kids are like sponges and they can absorb what is going on around them. If they see you as the parent anxious for the first day or stressed at schedule changes, they may too start feeling this way. One of the helpful things you can do is model calm communication and decision making for them. This is especially true those first few days back to school.
Get to know their teachers. Teachers will see sides of your kids that you aren't able to see at home. They can help you identify problem areas, learning issues and anxiety or depression. When evaluating for ADHD, I always want to hear from the teacher. They see how the student does with assignments, tests, focus, distractions etc. and that is crucial to making some diagnoses. Stay in contact with your child's teachers, even if it is just through email or just to say hey occasionally.
Know when to ask for help. This is always important. When you know you child you will know when things seem off. Maybe it's something they just want to talk through or maybe it's something more like anxiety or bullying. Either way, pay attention to those small changes. Has their eating or sleeping changed? Are they isolating more? Have they made or maintained their friendships this year? When in doubt start to ask questions. Ask your child what is going on in their life. As them about social media. Talk with your child's teacher or administrators. If you are concerned, try going to see their Pediatrician. Their doctor can look for any medical issues as well as use a screener for mood symptoms. Reach out to a counselor. I have parents call frequently and say they just aren't sure what is going on and counseling is a good way to explore this more. Maybe it takes a stranger to get a different perspective or for them to open up. Maybe they just need to learn a few coping skills themself. There are lots of reasons to try counseling with kids but don't hesitate to reach out if you are unsure. Your counselor can talk you through what you are seeing and what options for counseling will be.
Best of luck as the new year begins!