First Day of School: 15 Mental Health Tips for Adults & Children Surviving

“You’re off to great places. Today is your first day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss.

The first day of school can be intimidating, no matter how old you are or whether you are a teacher, parent, or student. However, it can also be exciting with new fun experiences, new schedules, friends, and classes to start. Here are some tips to help you enjoy this unique experience and have the most fantastic first day of school.

First Day of School Tips for Younger Kids

1. Just Because Someone Says it, Doesn’t Make it True.

Kids can say mean things to hurt you because they want something and are upset. Adults can do the same. They can say hurtful, discouraging things to children that are not true. Adults and children both outwardly express how they are feeling on the inside.

Children struggle to understand how to respond to adults who can’t manage their anger or anxiety. Adults who take out their frustrations on others can confuse children since it clashes with their view of adults as emotionally stable and in control.

For example, an employee at your child’s school could say, “you’ll never be able to have your dream job as an actor or actress – let’s pick something realistic.” This can be crushing for a child, and it is not valid. Teaching children resilience and how to filter out things that people say will help your child understand “it’s not me, it’s them” from a young age.

2. Doing Something Wrong Doesn’t Make You a Bad Person.

Younger children often interpret “being wrong” in an adult’s eyes as meaning they are a terrible person or very disliked. Teach your child that their teacher is upset with what they did, but they do not hate you as a person.
Good people make bad decisions, which can have consequences, but they are still good people.

3. It’s Okay to Cry

As a child you may have heard adults say “stop crying, or I will give you something to cry about.” Unfortunately, this mentality can lead children to bottle up and internalize their issues. They then struggle to express how they feel in relationships and lack emotional intelligence.

Teach your children that some people are not okay with crying, but that doesn’t mean they need to hide their feelings. This will help them meet their needs and learn healthy ways to cope at a young age instead of their emotions being the problem.

4. Having Fun Is Important

Doing fun things like playing, interacting with friends, running, and jumping are essential parts of development.

As adults, we think playing and having friends is less important than working and being serious. In a 2018 survey, 60% of adults said they sometimes felt too busy to enjoy life. There are many ways a child is learning outside of math, reading, and writing, and “having fun” helps them keep up good morale and be more successful in their other areas of learning.

5. Teach Them How to Take a Breather

When they feel like a situation is becoming too overwhelming, children will reach their upper limits. Tell them to cool off in their room or step a few feet away from the situation and let them have a breather. Encourage them to take a deep breath and ignore what other people are doing or saying.

This is easier said than done, but it will help them become more aware of how they feel and help them stay out of trouble.

Relaxation or grounding techniques can help children deal with different challenging emotions. This is something beneficial for you as an adult, and it can help you deal with anxiety attacks and times when you feel overly frustrated, and your emotions are out of control.

6. Identify Emotions

Emotion Wheels are an excellent resource for helping kids identify how they are feeling. It can help you work with them to determine why they feel this way. The reason this is important is to avoid the belief that expressing emotions is a complicated thing.

It also helps them learn emotional intelligence, which allows them to sense other people’s emotions and empathize with them.

Emotional intelligence helps us increase the strengths of our relationships with friends and family. Higher levels of emotional intelligence decrease antisocial behaviors and reduce the risk of substance abuse in middle and high school students. Learning to become attuned to their emotions as a child and how others feel can help them throughout their life.

First Day of School Tips for Older Students

7. Make New Friends

You may have friends from the previous school year and feel you only want to stick with them and avoid other people you think you may not like. Instead, try giving someone else the benefit of the doubt that they have the potential to be a great friend, and they might be!

8. Find a Community

Research the clubs, sports, and extracurricular activities available and try something new. Finding others that can relate to you will be helpful for the rest of your life. Community is always needed, even when you are an adult.

9. Don’t Try To Be Popular

People who are popular in high school do not stay that way their entire lives. When you graduate, and it is your ten-year high school reunion, nobody cares who was popular and who was not. Be yourself, and you will attract people who genuinely care about you and have your back.

10. Grades Don’t Define Your Value

Not everyone goes to college. You can still be an intelligent person and not be great at school. Some people are not great at taking tests. Once you enter college, your grades are only important, but they do not define success or a specific job.

There are requirements for certain GPAs for specific programs at most grad schools, medical schools, law schools, etc. However, a grade is a score that says how well you comprehended that material at that time in your life and how much effort you gave.

11. You Don’t Know How Smart You Are

There are multiple forms of intelligence, including emotional intelligence, where you can understand your feelings and empathize with others. According to psychology theorist Howard Gardner, additional forms of intelligence include: music intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, bodily/kinesthetic intelligence, mathematical, linguistic intelligence, spatial intelligence, and naturalistic intelligence.

Schools typically focus on the core subjects like math, science, and English. However, there are so many other ways you can be smart and succeed in life without being good at any of those things. For example, being friendly and knowing how to treat people is another way of being competent, so give yourself the credit you deserve.

Tips for Parents

12. Motivate Your Student

Getting ready for school can be a slow process, especially for kids who are nervous about their first day of school or if they are tired. Give your kids a “chart” to get themselves ready by a particular time every morning, and they get to pick a fun family event for the weekend or earn one more hour of screen time. Allow them to choose what they are earning as their “prize” so they are more motivated and feel like they are a part of the process.

If your child is older and charts do not work with them, try asking them what they would want to do to celebrate their first day back to school when you pick them up. For example, ask which class they are looking forward to, what friends they want to see, or what new clubs they consider joining.

Helping your child focus on the fun new opportunity they have on their first day back to school can help them get past any potential anxiety they may have.

13. Plan Ahead

Meal prepping is typically done when someone creates meals in large batches for the whole week and reheats them throughout the week. Challenge yourself to find other ways to “batch” out things that need to be ready for the week. For example, could you meal prep a few lunches or pick out five outfits for the week?

Simplifying the first day of school and the first week can help you feel excited for your kids rather than overwhelmed.

14. Set Boundaries

Set boundaries with your kids and enforce your “me time.” If you allow your kids to take up that time at night that you may need for yourself before you go to bed, then you are teaching them that it is okay. Set some loving but firm boundaries around the time you need for yourself, to work, talk on the phone, etc.

15. Go to Therapy

Parents often unknowingly push the poor behaviors they learned from their parents onto their kids. Of course, this goes beyond their first day of school, but addressing your social anxiety or fears or doubts that you may have can help you avoid passing those concerns on to your children.

Generational habits such as impatience, addiction, cheating, jealousy, and other bad habits that your child could develop can cause distress when they get in trouble for things they were taught, even by accident.

In Summary

Support your children the best you can, encourage them to be open-minded, and pursue people and things they would not typically have sought. This may be their first day, but it could set the tone for the rest of the year.

This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.