5 Questions For The Start of School

Start off the school year with some positive parenting! Whether your child is returning to a familiar environment or starting fresh at a brand new school, let them know you see them, you hear them, and you believe in their ability to thrive independently. 

1. What’s your favorite memory from the summer?

It can be hard for your children to remember an especially fun day from the recent past if they’re filled with dread about the imminent future. You can run through a short list of highlights from the summer, reminding them of a fun vacation day or a visit with family and friends, but the most vivid memory for your child might be a small moment of feeling special, maybe one-on-one with a favorite relative, beating an older sibling at a game, or staying up late to watch a movie or the moon and stars. It’s fascinating to give them center stage for a moment to learn what holds their attention. 

2. Which friend are you most excited to see at school?

Listen, don’t judge, when you ask this question, best followed by something like “why?” or “oooh, tell me more!”. It is not our job as parents of school age children to hover around and orchestrate playdates with the kids we think are appropriate playmates. Sure, that boy with the perfect curls and organic fair-trade cotton tie dye shirt looks interesting, but he might not be interesting to your child, who needs to learn how to navigate this and many future relationships without parental input. Certainly, if your child wants to spend time with someone who behaves dangerously or abusively, you can and should intervene, but most of the time we just find those other kids weird or annoying. That’s a problem for us, not for our children.  

3. Are you worried about anything at school this year?

The most common school related anxieties for children include these 5 fears:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of not fitting in
  • Fear of leaving home
  • Fear of not being able to keep up
  • Fear of the future

Back to school jitters typically resolve within a few weeks of establishing a regular routine. However, if your child has an increase in tantrums when being separated from you at school, complains of chronic headaches or stomach aches, or starts avoiding certain school activities, it’s time to sit down and have a reassuring chat. We cannot always spare our children from discomfort, and if we do, we may rob them of the opportunity to grow and overcome their own anxieties. Reassure your child that you are keeping up with your regular routine while they are doing theirs, and that the uncomfortable feelings of being in a new place doing new things will go away in time. Encourage them to connect with an old friend or make a new one so they have a familiar face to help navigate their complex world. Validate their right to feel whatever they are feeling, but also let them know that feeling uncomfortable won’t last forever. Remind them of other things that were hard at first but later became easier or even fun, like learning to read, playing a game, or riding a bike. 

4. Are there any adults at school you can talk to if you’re having a hard day?

If your child is returning to school, a favorite teacher or office worker might be able to offer a reassuring welcome back. If your child is attending a brand new school, scheduling a first-week meeting with a counselor can help them connect with supportive peers, or a friendly librarian can show them how to find books and resources to develop a new hobby or interest.

5. What can I do for you to help make this school year a success?

Think about what kinds of situations stress your child if they have trouble answering this one. What triggers a tough day? Can you create a morning routine that makes the transition from home to school simpler? If being late makes either of you anxious, pack lunches and backpacks before bed, choose outfits for the next day (including socks and shoes), build in enough time for breakfast, and set a kitchen timer to ring 5 minutes before you need to walk out the door to give everyone a moment to make sure they are ready, not rushed. If your children find the commute to school long and boring, let them take turns choosing music or an audiobook to help pass the time. If the after-school transition is tough, or your child is hurt because you cannot attend regular sporting events or activities, manage your child’s expectations, as well as your own. Be realistic about when you can be available, show up when you say you will, and be fully present when you are there, even if it’s just one time. If your child needs time to decompress after school, let her have a snack and a few minutes of downtime before starting homework. If she needs help, agree on a set time when you can be available long before bedtime, when math may seem impossible and everyone is too tired to perform. If you notice your child struggling academically, find help early in the semester, whether that’s free peer tutoring at lunch or a full spectrum of psychometric testing to identify a potential learning difference. 


While you’re in positive parenting mode, remember to listen to your own advice. Allow yourself time to process discomfort (like worry or empty nest anxieties), and give yourself room to explore your own feelings, fears and friendships. It’s never too late to learn something new.

About Lifeologie

Lifeologie Counseling was founded in 2000 with one goal in mind — to bring a fresh, innovative approach to the everyday problems of life. Creative solutions to stuck problems®. With our unique multi-specialty, collaborative approach, Lifeologie Counseling helps individuals and families heal their wounds and break out of old, unhealthy patterns.