Starting the year out right: A school psychologist’s tips for parents


It is easy to forget the feeling of walking down the fluorescently lit hallways of a large school on the first day of the year.

Excitement might be the first memory, but the stress of a new environment, challenging classes and social pressure are just as common.

Aaron Milner, superintendent of Saraland City Schools, urges parents to start thinking about their child’s mental health before the start of the year. Setting expectations early on, establishing a solid routine and finding stress-release outlets are crucial to a successful school year, he said.

There are simple steps parents can take to create a solid foundation for their student’s start at the year, said Terri Jo Napp, school psychologist for Saraland City Schools. Here are a few of her tips for parents who want to know how to best support their children:

Take advantage of open houses at your child’s school.

Meet the teacher, counselor or other school leaders to familiarize yourself and your child with school personalities. This is a perfect time to communicate any special ne your student may have.

Be sure to make your student’s teacher aware of any life changes that may have occurred recently.New to the school? Go for a tour.

Help your student find his or her locker. The first day of school will be a bit less nervewracking if they are in a slightly more familiar place.

Set goals and help your student stick to them. Joining clubs, sports or other extracurriculars are perfect opportunities for your student to find support outside of parents or caregivers.

Sit down with your student before school begins and find out what they are interested in. This is also a good time to set academic expectations for your students.

Prepare the body and mind for school. Summer is a great time to let the sleep schedule go, but don’t wait till the night before school to enforce a new routine.

Make bedtime a bit earlier every night leading up to the first day of school to avoid morning fights. Start spending more time outside away from technology since your student will be inside a good bit starting soon.

Create opportunities to have necessary one-on-one chats. These conversations aren’t the time for nagging about chores or grades.

Find time away from the noise of every day to ask your student how they are actually doing, how they are feeling and whether they need anything. This can be a great way to help them start every week out fresh.

Don’t fall into the “How was your day?” trap. First, give your student a minute or two before asking too many questions.

They might want a moment after their day to not think about their day. When your student is ready, ask specific questions when you pick your student up from school.

Like, “What was your favorite part of the day?” Staying positive and curious about your student’s life will help them see their experiences in a new way.

Staying positive is a major way to help your student, Napp said.

In addition to your abilities, check out what mental health resources your student’s school offers. Encourage your student to seek help from school administrators, coaches and most importantly, their peers, she said.

For more mental health resources, Napp recommends visiting the National Association of School Psychologist’s website. They offer research-based help for parents and counselors.



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