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Back to School, Back to Connection

Westly here – back again to spread the word about all things health and wellness in our community with my friends at Healthy West Orange! This time, it’s all about one of the most exciting times of the year: back to school. So many exciting moments to be had: new backpacks, first day of school outfits and photos, and meeting new teachers and friends. Adjusting to new people, places, and challenges during the school day can be super overwhelming, and kids and parents/caregivers may need some extra support from each other at home.

I connected with a local children’s mental health expert from The Nurture Place, Summer Darnell, Licensed Mental Health Counselor. She’s here to teach the parents and caregivers out there to reflect, plan, and be ready to connect with your child with intention at the end of each day. Here are 6 quick tips!

Know your child.

Every child is different. Having a plan for reconnection that meets their unique needs helps this daily transition from school to home go smoother. Some kids may be ready to share all about their day right away while others may be grateful for a quiet moment and need some time to rest.

“I missed you.”

You may be full of questions and curiosity about how their day went or you may be reeling from a tough day of your own. Before you pick up your child, take a mindful moment for yourself and set your intention. Greet them with kind eyes and a warm smile. Let your child know you are happy to see them after a day of separation. Maybe share a simple, “I missed you!”

Snacks and water.

None of us are at our best when we are hungry or dehydrated. Kids are often not tuned in to what their bodies need especially in busy school settings. Since many children eat lunch mid-morning, most are hungry by pick-up time. Often, having a quiet and unhurried time to eat and drink is calming.

Playfulness!

It is so challenging to pause and be playful in the midst of busyness and stress but the impact is great! Mindfully investing 5-15 minutes of playfulness into your after-school routine can help the entire family de-stress as it injects a dose of positive, pleasant emotion and mutual enjoyment. Touch, eye contact, laughter and movement are good ingredients for a simple, playful moment.

Express your own feelings.

Your child learns so much from you! When children observe grown-ups expressing gratefulness, naming emotions, overcoming frustration and setting healthy boundaries they learn to do this for themselves. For instance, acknowledge the normalcy of experiencing hard or difficult moments sprinkled in with the great ones during the day.

Listen.

In the midst of our daily routines are opportunities to listen. Make these times a phone-free zone to reduce distractions. Listen not only to what your child says but how they say it. Take notice of their body language, facial expressions, movement. Are they smiling or looking down? Are they skipping into the house or dragging their backpack in? These are clues to what they might need from you as they transition back home.

Wishing all our local students, parents/caregivers, teachers, and school staff a wonderful, safe school year! Until next time, this is Westly signing off!

See ya around!

- Westly

In the midst of our daily routines are opportunities to listen. Listen not only to what your child says, but how they say it.

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