By Katherine Ryan on August 28, 2015

Photo provided by the Department of Education

Photo provided by the Department of Education

This year the approach of school beginning seems unusually quick; perhaps it’s because winter lasted so dang long and most of our schools dismissed at the very end of June. But here we are with days getting shorter and a very occasional crispness in the air confirms it is turning away from summer into fall and for our youth and educators that means a new academic year.

I am going to focus on our transitioning students: children beginning either kindergarten, 1st Grade, Middle School, High School and High School Seniors. The inclusion of Seniors may surprise you ~ for our 12th Graders the entire academic year is a transition time.

For children entering Kindergarten or 1st Grade here are some tips:
• Begin the school bedtime/wake-up time before the first day of school.
• When school begins say “good-bye” in a positive way and remind your child when they will see you again.
• Label her/his belongings
• Ask your child “What was the most fun about today?” Talk about that and then ask “What was the hardest?”
• Focus on the positive.

For children entering Middle School my tips are:
• Begin to let your child assume more responsibility for his/her homework. I am not advocating complete non-involvement but work with your child to set-up reasonable expectations. Rewards work better than punishments and builds self-esteem.
• Think about your child’s independence ~ Can s/he do her/his own laundry? Prepare a simple meal? If not, now is the time to cultivate independence.
• Monitor Social Media. I strongly urge parents to randomly check their child’s phone and to know the pass code if one is set. Check their online presence, know what apps they are using and check them and know who they are Face Timing/Skyping.
• If you haven’t already, set reasonable guidelines for electronic use. I recommend all electronics be shut down/turned at least an hour before lights out.
• Spend some time in the morning with your child, chat about their upcoming day by using open-ended questions.
• Spend a few minutes at the end of the day asking “What was most fun about your day?” “What was most challenging?”
• Stay involved ~ know their friends, hobbies, interests, school social dynamics and their concerns.

And for the parents of Seniors my recommendations include:
• Be patient. Junior year was probably stressful for your child. Senior year can be scary and anxiety producing as well.
• Stay involved but loosen up on the reins a bit. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? As an example, your teen should still have a curfew and be completely responsible for homework, especially if they will be attending college.
• Continue to be diligent with your oversight on electronics and Social Media
• Continue to know their friends, where they are going and if sleep-overs and parties are going to be chaperoned.
• If possible, connect with your child in the morning before school.
• Avoid texting possible upsetting news to your child during school. Actually avoid texting during school if at all possible.
• Expect the Senior Slide but don’t accept it. Remind your teen of the goals they have set for themselves.
• Connect face to face with your child each day. Ask open ended questions to minimize the monosyllabic answers.
• Be active in planning for post-high school.
• Continue to reward for positive behaviors.
• Be generous with praise.
• Kids are never too old to hear “I love you.”, “I’m proud of you. &”Good effort”. Say it.

Wishing you all a happy and successful 2015-2016 academic year!

KMR07. re-size 3 07.14 D~ Katherine Ryan is a LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor) practicing in Topsfield, Massachusetts where she & her dog, Nina, enjoy helping adults, children and teens become unstuck from unhelpful ways of thinking, feeling and being.
Visit her website @ Harmony Counseling and follow her on FaceBook


239 Boston Street, Topsfield, MA 01983