New School Year, New Challenges!October 11, 2014
The start of a new school year can often bring mixed emotions. After long days of your child waking up late, going on vacation, and not having as many responsibilities, transitioning into the new school year may be hard. For some, getting their child up in the early morning and ready for a new school day can feel like a battle. The added pressure to make sure that you and your child are dressed, fed, packed up, and out the door on time can create anxiety and stress that no parent wants to feel. Then, when your child returns from school, the homework dance begins. Your child finds every possible excuse to avoid doing their homework and as a result, you end up getting into a fight with them. Changes brought about by the transition from summer time fun to the new school year ahead can feel tiring, frustrating, and stressful. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone and you have the ability to make things better. Here are some ideas to help decrease the battles and make a smoother transition back into the school year.
Remain Calm: Think about your own behavior and how it may look to your child. If you are frantic in the morning trying to get your child to school or, become overly anxious, your child is going to pick up on that. It is important to stay calm and be a positive influence. Always remember that children are watching and consequently reenacting everything that adults do. If you find yourself in a more anxious state, practice coping skills to help decrease those feelings of panic. Some methods to contain these feelings can include taking deep breathes, getting some fresh air, removing yourself from the difficult environment, or squeezing a ball to help provide you with a focus on something else.
Learn to be Patient: Your child may struggle with the transition from school to home. After sitting in a classroom for the majority of the day, your child may feel irritated that they now have to sit at a desk and complete their homework assignments. Show your child that you are supportive of their feelings by planning a fun activity or, giving them free time to play for at least 30 minutes when they get home.
Offer an Incentive: Frequently in my work, I help parents create behavioral plans that are tailored to their child’s needs. Not only does this help parents to become more consistent with their actions, it also allows their child to take more responsibility for completing tasks on their own. By offering some kind of incentive to your child for getting up in the morning, completing their chores, and doing their homework, the battle of completing tasks between child and parent may decrease.
Don’t Over-Schedule: Generally, parents want their children to be well rounded. This usually means succeeding academically, having friends, and participating in extra-curricular activities such as sports, art, or music. Even though parents who encourage participation in extra activities have their child’s best interest in mind, it is still important to find a balance. Overbooking your child can lead to symptoms of exhaustion or depression because it can be hard to juggle everything. Further, if it is important to you that your child participates in a specific activity, make sure you allow them to pick an additional one that they are passionate about. This will help show your child that you care about their interests.
Use the Weekends Well: The weekends are a time for you and your child to relax and spend time together. While your child may want to sleep late, sit around, and do nothing all day, try to prevent this from happening. Generally, letting your child sleep no more than 1 hour later than they get up on the school day, should be the rule you go by. Helping them be consistent will decrease the battles throughout the week. Encourage your child to find activities that they would like to do on the weekends with you and/or their friends. If there is weekend homework, implement similar rules that you have set in place during the week.
Liz Morrison, LCSW