As students head back to class, and we all transition back to the regular routines of daily life from the more carefree days of summer, we have an opportunity to help all children and youth to begin the school year with a sense of hope, purpose, meaning and belonging! Whether it is the start of kindergarten, grade 12, or somewhere in between, all students (and staff) come through the school doors this fall with a mixture of nervousness, optimism, excitement, and curiosity about what the year will bring. As education professionals, we can help to set the tone and direction for the year, through:
- Providing a warm welcome for all students (and noticing who might need a little extra care to feel comfortable with the transition to school routines),
- Creating a sense of belonging for all students (and especially those who may be feeling unsure or marginalized),
- Reminding all students about the skills they have for managing the normal stress of transition to a new school year, and modeling these skills each day (and especially for students who are showing signs of difficulty with the transition to school)
- Understanding that students come to school with a range of experiences, strengths, and concerns (and that some may have experienced summer months that have been anything but carefree),
- Reaching out to parents/guardians/caregivers to welcome them as partners in their child’s education journey (and especially for families for whom school might be a difficult or unfamiliar place)
When we create mentally healthy classrooms through welcoming, including, promoting, understanding, and partnering, we help all students to build hope, purpose, meaning and belonging. As our Indigenous colleagues remind us in the First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework, these are the things that ground us in our mental health and well-being, and school is a wonderful place to nurture these strengths.
Taking the idea of good transitions to school for our youngest learners abit further, Darryl Fillmore, Mental Health Leader at the Algoma District School Board (ADSB) and Blythe Servant, Early Years System Administrator at ADSB, recently appeared in a video created by the SaultOnline.com media outlet, sharing insights for parents and families to help in preparing for the start of kindergarten. Some of their suggestions include:
- Build a regular routine for home and school to enhance predictability and comfort for young children. Establish and maintain sleep, eating, playing and family routines.
- Understand that it is normal and okay for you and your child to feel nervous about the start of school.
- Model good coping with nervous feelings for your child.
- Help your child to learn skills that help them to calm when they are feeling worried thoughts or are in situations that feel scary (e.g., taking a deep breath, asking a teacher for help).
As Darryl Fillmore states in the article, “helping children prepare for the lessons that they will need to succeed in life means they need to be exposed to the world around them.” We all have a great opportunity during the transition to school to begin to equip our youngest learners with these important life-long skills!
Watch the video for more tips and suggestions.
Riley Smith, SaultOnline.com