This back-to-school time is a special one for me. Our oldest child is starting Kindergarten. While I have spent years talking to parents about how to help them get their children ready for school, this year, I am living it right along with millions of other parents.
I find myself feeling excited, sad, scared, worried, eager, and confused. Can you relate to any of that? I am pretty sure our daughter feels all those emotions as well. So, the questions becomes, how do we deal with all this transition?
Over the years, I have found some quick tips that have helped many families. I find myself using these same tips and wanted to share them with you.
- Get organized. Write down, make a list, and create a schedule of all the things that need to get accomplished (school supply shopping, school clothes shopping, immunizations, sport physicals). Include the entire family in this organization so that you, as the parent, know what needs to happen. Families have a lot of moving parts and we want to ensure that no one is left out.
- Carve out some 1:1 time with each child. Going back to school can create so many emotions, questions, and thoughts for each child. Be sure to ask each child, individually, what they are thinking and feeling about going to school. Sometimes children do not want to speak what is on their mind because they do not want to stress out their parents. By asking them directly what they are thinking and feeling, you are giving them permission to speak up. This also builds the beginning of open communication for when things make get tough!
- Role-model appropriate expression of feelings. Teens and children are constantly observing how people are acting in their life. If you are freaking out because of the stress, they will learn to freak out when they are stressed. It is okay to be tearful if you are sad or talk about being confused or worried. Be sure to evaluate if you are expressing your feelings the same way you want your children to express theirs.
- Share control. There is so much to do to get ready for school. Let your kids take some ownership of this process. Give them tasks to complete to help out with getting ready. Ask for their input on what type of supplies or clothes that they want. This is giving them some responsibility.
- Talk about expectations. Remember, kids have been on vacation for several months. Remind them of school expectations. This is a great dinner conversation. Start out with "Teachers always ask us to respect others. What does respect mean?" This will generate a discussion without being preachy or lecturing.
- Get back into the swing of healthy sleep patterns. We now know that sleep deprivation is one of the biggest contributors to behavior problems and irritability in children. Be sure that your child knows they need a good night's sleep for a healthy brain.
- Have fun. This is an exciting, fun time in your child's life. Try not to spend so much time on the stress of going back to school that you miss out on the awe, wonder, and excitement that kids may be feeling. Yes, their may be fear and dread in teens. However, you can capitalize on this and instill the message that when we work hard, we can play hard.