Parents: you've survived the endless lines at your local stationery store to secure everything on that extensive back-to-school school supplies list you received, you've taken and posted the first-day-of-school photos, and now your child is well on their way to a great school year.
While the preparation for their academic success is expected, do you have a list of the wellness supplies your scholar(s) will also need? I've compiled a list of key points for you based on my 12 years of work as a master clinical psychologist with children and their parents.
1. Starting the day well.
Back to the future. Starting the day well actually starts the night before. Adequate and restorative rest increases the chances that your child wakes up less grumpy, and that they remember the things they learned in class and studied for homework.
Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. It's literally the fuel for your child's body and brain, so make sure to emphasize that breakfast is the most important meal of the day in your words and actions. Model this for your child by eating breakfast yourself (#sideeye), keeping healthy and easy-to-prepare foods in stock, and/or enrolling your child in your school's breakfast program.
Touch and agree. A high five, a hug, a gentle pat on the head paired with an affirming statement or a spoken blessing: these are all great and simple ways to affirm your child and send them on their way with a tangible connection to you.
2. Reflecting on the day
Ask so they'll answer. After-school time is your opportunity to build your child's emotional vocabulary, critical thinking, and social savvy by reflecting on the day's events. Try
this: instead of always asking "How was your day?," mix it up a little by asking "if there's one thing that could make tomorrow's school day better than today, what would it be?" This will help your child be both expressive and proactive.
Praise is what we do. If the day went without a hitch, make sure your child knows at least one thing about their approach to the day that stood out in your mind.
Stress management begins at home. If the day had some challenges or rough spots, talk it through with your child and let them know what your expectations are and help them to set some expectations for themselves as well. Long lectures probably won't hold your child's attention but your attentiveness and empathy with helping them resolve the difficulty will go a much longer way.
3. Wrapping the day up
Get into the groove. An evening and bedtime routine is so important for your child's wellness. Knowing the signs of the day's end (screen time wrap-up, final homework checks, prepping book bags and tomorrow's school clothes, bath time, grooming, bedtime prayers) helps your child's mind and body prepare to rest.
What if my child is having challenges with their emotional and cognitive wellness?
Here's when to consider getting professional help from your pediatrician or licensed psychiatrist or therapist: If your child is unusually anxious or appears depressed, has noticeable changes in sleep habits or appetite that last longer than two weeks, is restless in a manner that isn't typical for their age, is aggressive and un-soothable, or makes unusual or bizarre statements. And if your child is unsafe with themselves or others, call 9-11 or take your child to the nearest emergency room.
It's important to pay attention to warning signs in your child, because waiting to get help until the problem is severe can result in a traumatic experience for your child and family, the need for intensive intervention, and missed days of school that are hard to catch up on later.
Do you have a wellness checklist for your child? Did any of my suggestions catch your eye? We'd love to hear your tips and feedback!
Dr. Seanna-Kaye Denham, co-founder of Natural Hair Does Care, LLC, is a licensed clinical psychologist, motivational speaker, researcher, and psychotherapist. Statements offered on this site are for informational and entertainment purposes only and do not constitute a psychologist-patient relationship between Dr. Denham and the reader.