Preparing kids for school and new situations

Aug 10, 2023
Preparing kids for school and new situations

Do you have a child that struggles when they’re faced with new situations?  Kids that struggle with big emotions also tend to struggle when dealing with new situations, and they can get testy and anxious as they get closer to going back to school.  

Although it may seem like going back to school is a way out, if you have a child that struggles with change I highly recommend that you start preparing them now.

Depending on what they will be faced with, there are a number of things that you can do to help.

First, help them practice anything that they will have to do on their own.  Depending on their age and how much you’ve been helping them with, you may need to have them practice getting themselves dressed or clearing the table and picking up after themselves after they eat.  This is why you want to start preparing early!

Teach your child how to take “hot cocoa” breaths where they take a deep breath to smell the hot cocoa, and then a longer exhale where they are blowing on the cocoa to cool it down.  Remind them to use hot cocoa breaths anytime that they’re faced with something new that makes them nervous.

If your child is riding the bus for the first time, I highly recommend that you practice that as well.

Find a place with some stairs they can climb, and remind them to take some hot cocoa breaths as they wait for the “bus”.  When the “bus” arrives, have them climb the stairs and practice what they might say to the bus driver before they turn to take a seat.  

Prepare them ahead of time with a mantra like I’m okay, riding the bus is safe that they can tell themselves if they get nervous.  Finally, remind them to congratulate themselves once they sit down with YAY, I did it!  Good for me.

You can use the same process for walking into the classroom for the first time too.

Second, predict any upcoming challenging situations that your child might be faced with and role play to prepare them with reframe thoughts.

If you have a child that struggles with big feelings and is easily frustrated, they may not do well when situations arise that don’t go as they had expected or hoped.  Predicting challenging situations and helping them prepare reframe thoughts ahead of time will help them get through those challenges more smoothly.

Here are some examples of reframe thoughts:

Your child is working on a drawing and the teacher says it’s time to pick up but they’re not done yet.  Instead of getting angry or frustrated, your child’s reframe thought could be “that’s okay, I can finish it at home”.

Your child is playing a game and doesn’t win.  A reframe thought might be “that’s okay, maybe I’ll win next time”.

Your child’s brain can’t tell the difference between past, present, and future.  The more you role play different situations, vividly describing the situation using as many of your child’s five senses as possible, the more real it will seem to your child’s brain.  If you have your child practice reframing thoughts while role playing, those thoughts will get programmed into their brain so they are much more likely to remember them when the time comes.

With some advance planning and practice, your child can feel much better prepared and more confident about new situations and going back to school.

If you want to add more tools to your parenting toolbox and learn how to support your child through change and going back to school, I can help!  This month in the Confident Parenting Club we are doing a deep dive into how to support and prepare kids (and yourself) for upcoming changes and going back to school!  Click here to check out the Club, and use coupon code CHANGE to get over 25% off when you join.

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