08/28/2012 05:10 EDT | Updated 10/28/2012 05:12 EDT

Getting Your Child (Mentally) Prepared for Back to School


The long summer break has come to a close and the shift toward school, homework, and routine is looming. Anxiety and stress can start to creep in as children face what can be the biggest transition of the year. So how can you help your child ease back into school mode and allay their fears?

If children feel confident and happy from the inside out instead of looking for it from the outside in, they will have a strong foundation from which they can face anything in life. But this kind of inner confidence is quite elusive today. We have an epidemic in our society that causes people to look outward to others for their validation and self-worth. This kind of self-worth, however, can't be counted on because we never quite have control over outer circumstances and we certainly don't have control over what others think. But if we look inside to our own effort and progress, we feel in control of our own lives which builds a strong inner confidence and self-worth.

To develop this strong, positive sense of self, children need four basic but critical life skills: focus, confidence, resilience and social intelligence. There's no doubt that your own levels of stress and anxiety would be greatly relieved if you knew your child was heading back to school with these skills in tow. So what's the action plan? What can you do to help your child cultivate these life skills?

For each of the four skills, there is a simple, practical and kid-friendly tool that will empower your child with a blueprint to follow. Each tool is broken down into a few easy-to-remember steps that your child will be able to apply on their own during their school day.

1. Focus -- To be great at anything in life, whether that's winning an Olympic gold medal, passing an algebra test or learning your ABCs, it's crucial to learn the art of focusing and refocusing. A simple tool called River Check-in with the 3 Bs can help your child be focused, present and mindful. Asking your child to check his 3 Bs, namely Body, Breath, and Brain, will not only give him the means to monitor his own level of focus and attention, but will empower him with the ability to self-regulate.

• Body Check -- long and strong spine with muscles not too tight, not too loose but in the middle like a River

• Breath Check -- Ninja Breathing to calm and de-stress (slow, deep breaths in the nose and out the mouth) or Fire Breathing to energize and focus (fast, short breaths in the nose and out the nose)

• Brain Check -- Where is my attention right now? Where is the best place to be putting my attention right now? Can I make the choice to shift my attention?

2. Confidence -- Basing your self-worth on what others think of you, on comparing yourself to others, or on your outward circumstances leads to a meager, conditional, and temporary confidence. Deep, true and lasting confidence, on the other hand, comes from your quality of effort and from being the best you can be. To help your child cultivate this inner confidence, you can teach her the River Effort tool which is broken down into three kid-friendly analogies:

• Ice Effort -- trying too much, feeling stuck, pressured, or stressed

• Puddle Effort -- trying too little, feeling dull, lazy or bored,

• River Effort -- putting your heart into what you are doing and giving it your all

It's important to emphasize that we all feel like Ice and Puddle sometimes and that's perfectly normal, but that being like a River feels and works the best.

3. Resilience -- As we all know, even if your child is focused and putting in his best effort, he will inevitably be met with challenges at school. The A-B Formula tool can help your child navigate his way through these challenging times whether it's something he is feeling or something he is doing. It can also help your child to see change and adversity as something that can be met with incremental steps rather than something that's unfair, overwhelming or to be avoided. It's simple:

• A = Accept

• B = Baby Step

These two steps, accepting where you are today and taking a step in the direction you want to go, are key elements to resilience. This ability to bounce back is vital to not only building confidence but to developing an overall positive outlook on life.

4. Social Intelligence -- The social pressure our kids are facing in school today can really tear apart their confidence. To help combat this pressure, you can arm your child with the "My Shoes, Your Shoes, Our Shoes" tool. This tool will teach your child the interpersonal and social skills she needs for strong, positive, and healthy relationships.

• My Shoes -- clearly and honestly express your thoughts and feelings because no one knows what it's like to be you.

• Your Shoes -- hear, understand, empathize, and care about the thoughts and feelings of others.

• Our Shoes -- work together in a way that respects everyone's thoughts and feelings.

Yes, back to school time will always be wrought with some level of stress and anxiety but these are feelings your child will most likely be faced with throughout life. So why not make this year a time when you empower your child with the skills and tools to not only tackle school, but to embrace life with true and lasting confidence that comes from the inside out.