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 Start the school year strong prevent Child Abuse Wisconsin

Strong start: How to manage the excitement and anxiety of a new school year

Well, we made it. The new school year has started, and by now, you and your kids are probably adjusting to new routines, school schedules and homework deadlines. Add to that after-school enrichment and co-curricular activities, our own work schedules and much more, it certainly can be a juggling act for families. And every year brings new challenges. A lot of time and energy can be spent just managing daily calendars and logistics. The fact is, the beginning of the school year can be an emotional time filled with both excitement and anxiety. It’s a transition — and even good changes can be stressful for families. Moving past the logistics and making sure our kids are feeling supported emotionally is so important.

Prevent Child Abuse Wisconsin is a program of Children’s Wisconsin that works to provide resources and support to families that helps them create an environment that best supports kids’ wellbeing.

This summer, we worked with our partners across the state — including Five for Families and Resilient Wisconsin — to develop some tools for families to start the school year strong.
Keep these tips handy as you continue to navigate the school year.

Listen and share with care 

Casual conversation can be a powerful way to connect with kids and ease school anxieties. Let your kids know their feelings are real, meaningful and important to you. It’s a simple way to reassure kids they aren’t alone. There are lots of ways to get kids talking: 

  • Ask open-ended questions about what they feel and why.

  • Share the big emotions you felt that day.

  • Ask permission before offering advice. 

  • Tell your own “back to school” story.

  • Work through a challenge out loud together.

  • Talk about tomorrow’s possibilities.

  • Teach by example that it’s okay to ask for help.

Help them deal with the big things they feel

Help your kids recognize and manage the big things they feel. It can give them the confidence to solve problems and build healthy relationships. These strategies can help kids navigate big emotions: 

  • Ensure kids consistently eat well and get enough sleep.

  • Talk about what to expect in advance. 

  • Show understanding and respect for their feelings.

  • Read or watch a story about going to school.

  • Remind them of a past challenge they’ve overcome.

  • Practice skills like deep breathing or counting to ten.
  • Encourage kids to play and unwind after school. They need that downtime.

Put aside your own to-do’s and take care of you!

With school meetings and busy schedules, self-care might sound unrealistic. But it’s an important part of your whole family’s health. Supporting your kids throughout the school year is easier when your own health needs are met. Put a few self-care ideas on your to-do list:

  • Connect with loved ones.

  • Spend time in nature.

  • Do something you love.

  • Try to exercise a few times each week.

  • Listen to your favorite music.

  • Eat well and get enough sleep.

  • Make plans with a friend.

Add to what you know as your kids grow

Every stage of our kids’ growth and development presents new challenges — and our kids change a lot over the school year. Knowing what to expect as kids grow can help prepare your family for new challenges. Learn new skills to keep up with each child’s shifting needs. Fill your parenting toolbox by leaning on others for their experiences, knowledge and support:

  • Ask a health care provider for advice.

  • Share your experiences with other caregivers. 

  • Spend one-on-one time with your kids.

  • Get to know your kids’ friends.

  • Connect with your kids’ teachers and counselors.

Just know you are never alone — and let your kids know they aren’t either. No parent has all of the answers, and every family is learning as they go. Download this fact sheet and be sure to share them with others.