Back to School For Parents and Teens
Is it just me or are the summers getting shorter? It’s almost like our kids have to return to school sooner each year. I was commiserating with another mom who said she thinks our kids have to go back to school and college to prepare us for the day when they eventually leave us and live their own lives. Whichever way you look at it going back to school can be stressful for both parents and teens.
How can this transition be made easier for both parents and children?
1. Start preparing early
For parents with young children, it’s a great idea to start talking to them early about how exciting school can be for them. Especially with kids who have never left their parents, or those who are changing schools, going to school can be very traumatic. Make it a point to attend orientation or meet the teacher events. This gives the children the opportunity to not only meet their teachers but other children who will also be attending the same school. If possible show them their classrooms and playgrounds. Make shopping for school a fun event. Start teaching them how to get organized by having a set place for them to keep their school bags and to have a designated place for them to do their homework. Remind them that they are mom or dad’s big boy or girl and the next big thing to do is to go to school.
2. Start working on routines
Most households are so relaxed in the summer months, with no set bedtimes and lots of TV time. Start dialing things down when its time to go back to school. Reinstate your routines. Let them get back to going to bed early and waking up early. Cut back on TV. For older kids who were given Summer reading projects or other homework, make sure that all assignments are completed. If you haven’t done so, update your child’s immunization records and get their health physicals done, especially for those who will be participating in sports. Ensure that you know your school’s dress code and that uniforms fit and that your child is ready to go. Get them back into the back to school routine and the first day will be that much easier for everyone.
3. Give the “pep talk”
Remind your children why it’s important for them to go to school and to do their best while they are there. Especially for older children who may see school as more of a social place to make new friends etc., remind them that making friends is important but having a vision for their future and writing down goals is a great way for them to stay focused. Goals should be age dependent. Consider giving rewards along the way for achieved goals. For parents who have a hard time motivating their teens, it’s a good idea to ask for help from other adults like a trusted family friend or school coaches and counselors. Joining mentoring programs is also very helpful. Giving teens responsibilities or volunteering opportunities also increases their self worth and motivation. Remember to ask for help from your pediatrician if you think you need professional counseling to help you connect and better motivate your teen.
4. Choose extracurricular activities wisely.
There are so many opportunities for extracurricular activities that sometimes it’s almost like being in a candy store. Of course parents want their children to be well rounded students so they want them involved in as many activities as possible. Teens also have a fear of missing out, “FOMO”, it’s called these days so they willingly sign up too. Not only is this exhausting for the entire family but when one is involved in so many activities chances are none of them will be done well. We should not sign our kids up for activities so we can show off to our friends. Choose the activities wisely. If your child is gifted in a particular sport, by all means sign them up. Extracurricular activities help keep teens out of trouble. It teaches them about working in a team and teaches responsibility but it should definitely not tear your family apart or cause your teen’s grades to slip.
5. Be supportive but not overly indulgent
As your children adjust to their new schedules and routine pay attention and recognize any difficulties they may be facing. Very often adjustment problems, being bullied and learning disabilities present with physical ailments. Time after time children present with vague complaints like abdominal pain, headache and chest pain with no real exam findings to account for these symptoms. Though theses symptoms can often times herald very serious illnesses, it’s time to think outside the box when this becomes a frequent complaint especially on school days, and never on weekends. Or your child feels better as soon as they come to clinic or they never have these symptoms during vacation. Your provider is not blowing you off if after all the tests have come back negative they suggest that you talk to your child’s school to find out if your child is facing any difficulties. They may advise you to send your kids to school in spite of the complaints if your child appears to be doing well. We are a team and we are all interested in doing what is best for your child. Lastly, there is no shame in talking to a professional counselor or psychologist if you need to. Remember everyone’s aim is to make the school year a great success.
Even as our kids head back to school, the year will be ultimately what they choose to make of it. For those kids who are going to college or school for the first time or even for returning students, this period of their lives can be very stressful and we must give them the tools to make the school year a success. For parents, there is almost a sense of loss when we first drop our children off. One wise mom once told me when I was anxious about the first day of school, “Why are we stressed out like people without hope? We should give thanks that our children are going to school and improving their lives and have faith that they will return to us better and wiser than they were on the first day of school. “Now, that’s a great perspective to have.