By Susan Dunn
Kids all over the nation are returning to school. Here are some things to anticipate, and some tips.
1. Starting school is stressful.
You may have forgotten what it's like to face a new teacher, new classmates, a new room, new building, or perhaps even a new school, not to mention a change in your daily routine. Your child will be looking to you to tell him he can handle all this.
2. Be clear and specific about the new routine and schedule.
"Get ready" means nothing to a youngster, unless you've provided the what's and how's. Outline what's expected and how to do this, including laying out clothes and supplies the night before, whether they bathe at night or in the morning, a sensible bedtime, getting up on time, brushing teeth, getting dressed, eating a good breakfast, and being ready on time for transportation. Then go over what happens they get home from school!
3. Be pleasantly firm and consistent in adhering to the schedule.
Your child needs to know you're behind what you say.
4. Relax in areas where you can for the time being.
Let some things slide that aren't so important, as your child makes the adjustment.
5. Expect some regression.
Relaxing about some things is important, because children tend to regress under stress. Your child may be a little more on edge than usual, and more emotionally reactive. Allow for outbursts, and lapses, and remain calm and confident yourself. This models for your child how to cope.
6. Yikes!! She's picked up a bad habit!!
Who hasn't had their child return from the first day of school with some lovely new word you can't believe they learned, and never want to hear again? Go back over the rules-of-the-road for your household. Just because Freddie says it, doesn't mean they can. My mom used to say, "If XXX sat on a hot stove, would you?"
7. Feelings matter as much as facts.
Typically you'll ask them about their new teacher, classmates, subjects, etc. Don't forget to ask them how they feel about all this. Then listen.
8. Process the emotional reactions.
When you listen, help them sort through what they're feeling and model age-appropriate responses. "I hate school," can boil down to a bad lunch that day, while everything else was keen, or it could mean they've become the target of a bully. As the adult, you can provide words for feelings, lend perspective, give encouragement where it's needed, and help provide solutions to problems.
9. It's more than just getting As.
You'll probably be checking on their homework, but don't forget to check on their social adjustment. Having friends and being able to get along make a big difference in your child's self-esteem and ability to function well at school.
10. It's a transition.
Transitions generally involve ambivalent emotions ("Wish it were still summer BUT it's fun to see all my friends again"), and when things get emotional, we don't think as clearly. With patience on your part, understanding, instruction, and the passage of time, much of the turmoil will subside.
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