It’s that time of year: summer break is coming to an end and kids are going back to school. No matter how ready parents and children think they are, the transition from carefree, unstructured summer days back to scheduled school hours can be a bit jarring.

In our last column, we outlined the Strengthening Families™ Framekwork for five Protective Factors that predict a family’s ability to raise happy kids and thrive: parental resilience, knowledge of parenting and child development, social and emotional competence of children, social connections, and concrete support in times of need.

This time of year—back-to-school—is a great time to focus on social and emotional competence of children, which is how children feel about themselves and their place in the world.

That’s because children will cope with—and behave better during—a significant transition when they have the proper social and emotional skills to do so.

Here are some suggestions for helping to boost your child’s social and emotional competence:

  • Spend quality time with your children. Find a little time each day to read with, talk to, and, most importantly, listen to, your kids.
  • Teach them about their feelings. Label, anticipate and discuss different feelings your child may experience throughout the day (and throughout this time of transition). Your daughter might feel nervous about meeting her new classmates. Your son might feel excited about finally riding the school bus. Explain some appropriate ways to handle these feelings.
  • Believe in trial and error. Help your child understand that it’s okay to try different things—and that different outcomes are okay, too. There is always the possibility to adjust and change course.
  • Encourage and praise your child. Notice when your child responds appropriately and praise him for his efforts. Encourage her to try new things (and to try again!).
  • Model good behavior. This time of year is transitional for your child—and for you! Share your feelings with your child and explain what you’re doing to cope.

Here’s to a great school year!

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