Contributed by ABERDEEN HALL
It’s that time of year again: Back to School.
Those words can signal pending joy for students and parents alike. But for kids who get overwhelmed by the routine and responsibility of school life, it can signal a new year of worries.
Becca Nydr, school counsellor at Kelowna’s Aberdeen Hall, shared her thoughts on student life, school stress, and what we can do to make the transition into the upcoming school year a little bit easier on kids of all ages (and their parents).
Q. What types of problems can parents expect during the transition from summer vacation to the start of the school year?
A. For many families, summer vacation often includes an erratic schedule. Every day might look different, often later bedtimes and more sleeping in. A difficulty (especially for young children) is the change in schedule. For students in Junior school, I recommend that parents start to shift back into the "school-mode" during the second half of August. This includes having an earlier bedtime and getting in the routine of waking up earlier. This gradual transition technique can help reduce tantrums and ease the process of re-integrating into the school routine.
Another way to help your child shift into the mindset of school is asking age-appropriate questions: What are you looking forward to this year? Do you anticipate any tough parts of going back? What friends are you looking forward to seeing?
Q. How long does the transition to a new routine usually take for children?
A. Each child is different, and transitions can be very easy for some children, and very stressful and anxiety-provoking for others. The best way to help your child adjust is to communicate why the transition is happening and what it means for them. Often, students who are predisposed to being anxious are fearful about change and transitions will have lots of questions. Reminding them that you are there to support and help them is key to them feeling safe and secure within the transition back.
Q. What is your advice or tips for parents during the transition period?
A. Patience! As I said, every child is different and transitions can bring up a lot of different emotions. Parents that are patient and willing to answer their child's questions and reassure them will help them to feel grounded. Change is a part of life at every stage; if you can help your child have a positive transition in their early years they are likely to be less anxious about changes as they occur in the future.
Q. How can parents of high school-aged children support their teens as they head into September?
A. For older students, the transition back to school happens every year so hopefully they have started to learn the skill of transitioning back already. To help support high-school teens and tweens, ask how you can help them with the transition back? What do they need from you in order to be successful? This gives them choice and power over what the transition looks like. This also implicitly encourages them that you believe in their ability to handle the transition, thus acknowledging and supporting their agency and independence.
Q. What does your role at Aberdeen Hall encompass? How do you support our students?
A. I am the School Counsellor at Aberdeen Hall, which means I work with students (K-Grade 12) to help them navigate anything from daily life stress to learning coping skills for anxiety and depression. My goal is to hold a safe space for students that need time to reflect or process things within the busy-ness of daily life. I also run a number of groups and workshops each school year including Art Club, Peer-Support Training, and Study Skills workshop for Exams. (With a few more being added this year!) I am also the one stop shop for any questions about mental health and a connection point for students looking for services and agencies in the community.
Q. Are there any specific programs or techniques that Aberdeen Hall implements to make the transition easier?
"At Aberdeen Hall, our teachers are thoroughly prepared to great their incoming students,” says Susanne Raye, Aberdeen Hall Junior School Principal. “Prior to the first day of school, they meet with their new students' previous teachers to discuss the children's individual strengths and opportunities and go over student files. They also send their students a personalized email or postcard prior to the start of the term which the children really enjoy getting.
"Our small class sizes ensure our teachers really get to know their students and 'home room' time at the start and end of the day give teachers and students extra time to connect and build relationships."