As the sun sets on summer, both children and parents alike are getting prepared to step back into “high-gear” and trade their swim caps for their thinking caps and allow their lives to get serious again. The seriousness associated with back-to-school time only adds pressure, not only upon our kids but parents as well.
Here are some tips to make that back-to-school transition less stressful for your children and for you (because if you’re not looking out for you, who is??):
1. Turn lunch preparation from a morning chore to an evening family activity. Often times, kids can be picky eaters but this is partly due to the child’s loss of control. Allowing your child to choose main lunch menu items or even snacks will increase the chances that it will be eaten and not traded for Jello pudding in the school cafeteria. Working with your child on this activity will not only save you time in the morning in preparations but will also show your child that you are attuned to his/her needs.
2. Have a conversation with your child about his/her new schedule. One of the main causes of anxiety both in adults and children is the result of uncertainty. Although you may be well-versed in your child’s new school schedule and know exactly the coordinates of the bus stop and morning drop-offs, your child may not have any of this information on hand. One of the biggest mistakes that I see being made often by parents is not informing their children of basic information based upon the belief that the parents will handle it for them or they are too young and don’t need this information. Children do best when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. Be clear and answer questions honestly.
3. Avoid the “How was your day?” Question. Depending on the mood of your child, the answer to this question can range from “fine” to “good” to “terrible” to being completely ignored. If you really want to know how your child’s day was, you should be asking a more engaging question like – What do you like better about your teacher/classroom/classmates this year as opposed to last year? What was the funniest thing that happened today? What was the worst or most boring part of your day? Opening up the question pool shows your child that you’re not only looking for good news but will be there to be supportive and a listening ear, just in case your child has a concern to be brought up. Your child knows that the only answer you really want to hear to the “How was your day?” question is something positive. Changing the question will allow for a more open conversation.
4. Allow for a quiet activity or snack after school. BEFORE HOMEWORK! Some parents feel that putting aside time before homework will teach children to procrastinate but instead this is teaching them self-care. Your children may need to be left alone when immediately returning from school. School can be a very stimulating environment, similar to work, where you have to always be “ON.” The ability to walk into your house and push the “OFF” button is an important quality for the after school child. Don’t take it personally if your child doesn’t want to engage in conversation directly after school, maybe he/she needs some time to unwind.
5. Set aside “game time” for you and your child. As much as some children don’t want to admit it, getting your undivided attention is as good as gold to them. Start a board game that takes awhile to finish (such as Monopoly, Battleship, Life, Chess) and dedicate 30 minutes every other day to play with your child. This will build the relationship by showing the child you are willing to get on their level. You will be surprised how relaxing a conversation you could have with a child at play and you will also feel relaxed as you engage in this way. Game time with your child can be used as a reward for good behavior and is more cost effective than earning allowance!
Back to school transition is an anxiety-provoking time of year with the changing schedules, weather, and daylight. Focusing some of your energy on calming your child will remove some of the anxiety from your job as a parent as well. Being a perfect parent is easier said than done, but if you can change at least one thing about your routine in an effort to make your child’s life easier, you are one step closer!