Staying on top of assignments and other commitments is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Keeping an agenda or planner helps the student prioritize his/her work according to upcoming deadlines and can make workload feel less overwhelming. Laying out a plan for the week also helps students balance school, extracurricular activities and other time commitments. (Your child can also personalize his/her agenda with decorations, stickers, making it a fun way to stay organized!)
Prepare (or have your child prepare) his/her school bag and lunch beforehand. This can help avoid stress in the mornings.
Having downtime. Allowing for downtime in your child’s schedule is important. This time is flexible – a time where your child can engage in whatever activity he/she wants, whether that is playing sports, reading, painting, dance, writing…
Maintaining a good sleep schedule. Set a bedtime for your child and keep with that, even on weekends. Ensure that your child is getting enough sleep (For 7-11 year olds, the recommended amount of sleep is 10-11 hours).
Listening to your child. If your child is experiencing anxiety in a certain situation, open up the conversation. Validate his/her fears and anxieties and work towards a solution together. (Here is a website outlining more suggestions on how to help your child cope with anxiety https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/stress-coping.html)
I sat down with Jane Bourke, social worker and coordinator of the Transitional Care Team. Jane has been part of the team since 2006 and works with families whose children have been discharged from the child psychiatry units, while other members of the team work closely with the schools.
She says, “The goal of the team is to maintain the gains” children made in psychiatric treatment, after they have been discharged. Her team helps to achieve this with a flexible approach, which she describes as one of the strongest parts of the program. She explains, “We’ve structured the team so that we are available just about any hour. I’ve had families that have called me late in the evening… We aren’t an emergency service, but access to support in a more… practical way is necessary.”
This transition process is not without challenges. “Regression is often a normal experience,” Jane explains, “our role is to support that regression, whether it is minimal and needs just a little boost, or whether it’s actually a full regression.” Part of the way the Transitional Care Team can provide this support is by easy access to the psychiatric team at the Jewish General Hospital.
The biggest challenge for children are the changes that arise during the transition back to school. These may include social expectations and learning difficulties that surface when kids return to school. Another example is class size, “coming from a program here where the classroom is at most eight children [at the Day Hospital] going back to a classroom that is on average, 25 children” can be challenging. Part of this difficulty, is that “a teacher cannot be expected to see the cues in terms of early regression… Those little behaviors that will accelerate if not addressed.” These cues are what the childcare workers on the team look for when they observe in the schools.
Despite these challenges, the Transitional Care Team witnesses many successes. In particular, Jane recalls one boy with aggressive behavior who had serious difficulties at school and home. The team surpassed the usual 6 month contract and worked with this family for two years. Jane guesses the child “probably would have been suspended from school permanently had we not been there” and “he’s still in school. That is a success, because that is ultimately our goal, to make sure these children can graduate. And then, hopefully not accessing the [mental health care] system as often as maybe would have been needed had they not had earlier treatment.”
How can parents help with this transition? “Stay in touch” Jane says, “Our intention is to build a team around the child.”
Summer is an opportunity for kids to grow, play and enjoy their free time. This is also a good time to encourage your child to explore new books. Reading at home can help children sustain and improve their reading skills during the summer months. Make reading part of your everyday routine –before bed, in the car, at the park and during vacation. Check out these suggestions on getting your child excited about books.
Tips on Raising a Young Reader1
Read together. Read aloud to your child and encourage your child to read aloud to you. This gives your child a chance to practice pronunciation and work on difficult words together.
Tip: Try switching who reads aloud each page – you read a page, then your child. This can be a good tactic if the book is challenging for your child. Help the story come alive by using different voices for each character.
Let your child pick. Give your child the freedom to choose the type of book they want. When they pick a subject they are interested in (animals, sports, non-fiction, comics, fantasy) it will help them engage in the story.
Tip: Sign up for a Montreal Library card and create weekly outings to the library (find your nearest library). This gives your child access to a range of books, reduces cost of buying new books and may become something you both look forward to each week. Librarians are also great places to get book recommendations.
Discuss what you read. As you are reading, stop and ask your child questions about the story. This interactive style of reading can improve your child’s language skills and will give you an idea of their level of understanding. Older children may prefer to read on their own. You can still engage them by asking them questions about the books they are reading.
Questions to start your discussion:
• What do you think will happen next?
• How do you think the character is feeling now?
• What did the character learn?
• What would happen if…?
• How would you feel…?
Be a role model. Let your child see that you are reading, too. Kids are copy cats! If you show your child that you value reading, they may grow to love reading, too.