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5 Recommendations for Back-to School Success


By Jenn Bovee, LCSW, CRADC, CCHt, EMDR Trained, The Mental Wellness Center, Inc

The start of a new school year can be challenging for many people, especially those who have had more down time (or time outside) during the summer. Children are no different. The transition from the relaxed, less structured time of summer to the more scheduled time of the school year can often lead to anxiety and stress. I’d like to discuss a few ways to help set your kids up for success as the beginning of the school year is a good time to focus on some new routines and ideas.

Before you read the following suggestions, remember that you are already doing a phenomenal job of parenting, so please do not read this from the perspective of “here’s one more thing to do.” Parenting is not an easy job, but I believe that our attention is best served by focusing on growing, changing, healing, and evolving every day. My recommendations for setting your kids up for success include the following:

  1. Teach them social skills: A research study from more than 20 years ago showed that kids with higher social skills end up being more successful. I think it helps kids to be more balanced if they know how to interact with their peers. When we are working with kids, we help them find ways to build meaningful relationships. This is such an important developmental skill. Historically, research has shown that kids with lower social skills find themselves less satisfied in life.
  2.  Develop a connection with your kids: A 2014 study showed that those people who experienced “sensitive caregiving” within the first three years experienced academic advancement and healthier relationships overall. Some ways we typically recommend creating a connection with your children includes really listening, offering empathy, welcoming emotion, making eye contact, and creating a place for them to connect with you. When we have a good connection with our kids, it helps them to feel more valued and validated.
  3. Encourage their dreams: This is especially true if your children are younger. It’s important that they develop a deep belief in themselves. Most of us have no idea who will grow up to be massively successful and who will not. However, research shows that those children who grew up in homes where their dreams and desires were encouraged are typically happier and more successful later in life.
  4. Celebrate failure: I remember vividly when I first heard this concept. The creator of Spanx was talking about how every night at dinner her father would go around the table and ask each person one thing they failed at that night. After everyone had recounted something they failed at, he would then help them all begin celebrating. In their family, the belief was that failure was simply finding a way that didn’t work, which opened up more ways that did work. I’ve since spent time looking into this concept, and there’s a huge correlation between embracing your failures and feeling successful.
  5. Decrease your own stress: When I first came across the research that showed that parents who have less stress raise more resilient children, I was honestly a little surprised. However, when we consider that our children’s subconscious minds are created prior to puberty, it doesn’t come as a huge surprise. My experience is that parents who manage their stress effectively are able to demonstrate and teach their kids how to successfully handle stress. Kids raised in a home where there’s a lot of lingering stress typically report an inability to manage stress.

Whatever you decide to implement from this list, I’m a big advocate of setting yourself up for success. It may work best to start with one thing on this list until that becomes an ingrained habit. Or, depending on the ages of your children, perhaps it makes the most sense to have a discussion about implementing some of these techniques first. Kids are often the best at holding parents accountable for their actions!  

Next month, we’ll talk about some ways to create a sense of connection in your family despite our busy lifestyles.

For more information on any mental health issue, or for help with your family dynamics, you may contact The Mental Wellness Center at 309-807-5077 or e-mail: Their office is located at 202 N. Prospect , Suite 205 in Bloomington. They are invested in empowering you to return to — or achieve, possibly for the first time ever — a state of complete mental wellness.