We have made it to October – homework is probably increasing, extracurriculars are picking up and friendships are beginning to solidify. It’s a transitional time between the start-of-the-year craziness and the more hectic winter. Once it starts to get colder and the days get shorter, school will inevitably become tougher. This transition is a time when children and parents need support and encouragement. When this happens, it is important that we all do what we can to handle stress healthily.
Having a conversation with your child is a great first step! Ask them questions about what tools they already have in place to handle stress and overwhelm. Here are some examples:
What helps calm you down?
What do you do when you feel stressed?
How do you know when you feel stressed?
What do you do to calm your anxiety?
What makes you feel stressed?
What does overwhelmed feel like for you?
There is a solid chance they will already have answers. Whether you have discussed these with them or they have discussed them in school, they likely already use strategies. These prompts can lead to discussion on ways to handle other big feelings.
Next, it is important to discuss the effectiveness of their strategies with them. It is important to identify things that are helpful and things that aren’t as helpful. If a coping skill they currently use isn’t helpful, it may mean that your child has outgrown it or their needs have shifted. Here are some questions that you can ask to help them identify effectiveness:
Have you been able to calm down when you (insert coping skills)?
How have you felt when you’ve (insert coping skill)?
Do you feel less stressed and overwhelmed when you (insert coping skill)?
Do you think (coping skill) is helpful to use?
How do you know when (coping skill) is needed?
Once you’ve established what is helpful and what isn’t, it’s important to replace unhelpful strategies. This can feel tricky, especially if coping skills are still new things that you’re working on. So, let’s identify common ones that can be helpful:
Timer to separate working time with some down time
Exercise (even taking a short walk)
Setting up a safe and comfortable space to work, separate from where they sleep
Have designated movement times (ie dance breaks)
Establishing specific amounts of time for homework
You and your child may be able to think of different options, and all of them are worth a try. It is also important that new skills are continuously practiced. That means checking in with your child periodically on how they’ve been feeling. If they aren’t trying new skills, this may mean they aren’t motivated to try something new, which could lead to more stress. Encourage them to explore new options on their own and then continue to check in. Consistency is key – that is the only way we will be able to know how effective a skill is.
It is also important to remember that the coping skills you’ve established for yourself may not work for your child. You can suggest what has worked for you or any other children you may have, but it is important that you stay open to the unique needs of each child during the school transition.
If you and your child feel that you are hitting a dead end and aren’t moving forward, let me help. I want to be there for you and your family during this time!
I (Gillian) am the owner of Tavernier Therapy Group. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Provider and a Certified Sex Offender Treatment Provider. I work with teenagers who struggle to connect with their parents and am currently accepting clients! Take a look around my website and get to know me. I look forward to hearing from you!