Patel: 11 Back-to-School Tips to Help Parents Give Their Kids the Social-Emotional Skills They Need

It’s that time of year again. We are updating our children’s school clothes, purchasing supplies and scheduling afterschool activities. But are we focusing on preparing our children to cope with the social and emotional stressors they will face during the new school year?

From bullying and being nervous about making friends to having a new teacher, there’s a lot that can weigh on a child. This stress can continue throughout the school year and have devastating consequences. The good news is that there are plenty of things parents can do to help their children prepare and develop the resiliency they need. The following tips are not only beneficial for school readiness but lifelong skills.

● Teach kids to embrace progress, rather than perfection. As parents, reinforce effort rather than outcome.

● Set your expectations for them based on your values. Create a family mission statement that includes a social value component. For example: respect and empathy.

● Talk to your children about your own social mistakes, so they can learn from them. Let them know how you would have handled your mistakes differently if you could go back in time.

● Remember that winning isn’t everything. Kids develop determination and skills when faced with defeat. They need to learn how to be a team member and how to lose gracefully. Play games with them that they will sometimes lose, so they can learn good sportsmanship and resilience.

● Discuss with them what “success” means. Break it down into terminology they understand. As parents, make mistakes intentionally so your kids can see how you solve problems through them.

● Talk to your kids about how to make friends. Have your child pick five qualities they want in a friend and then discuss the list. If social issues arise, refer back to that list of core values to see if a friendship is a good fit.

● Have a family discussion about finding balance and how much can fit into one schedule. If your children are adding something new to their plate, what can be taken off?

● Make sure your kids know that it’s OK to ask for help. This is called self-advocacy.

● Make a discussion of social media a priority. Ensure that your children use the T.H.I.N.K. acronym when they post online — T (is a post truthful?), H (is it helpful?), I (is it inspiring?), N (is it necessary?) and K (is it kind?).

● Have a discussion about bullying. Remind your kids that bullying is never OK and that they need to speak up if it happens. Talk about having boundaries, speaking up, being a good role model and getting help when needed.

● Teach kids how best to react to problems they encounter by identifying “How big is my problem?” and helping them match their responses to that level.

By making sure your kids have the emotional and social tools and skills they need, they will be more likely to enjoy the school year, get better grades and be happier overall.

Reena B. Patel is a parenting expert, guidance counselor, licensed educational psychologist and board-certified behavior analyst, working with families and children to support all aspects of education and wellness. For more parenting tips, follow her on Instagram @reenabpatel.

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