What to Do About the Back-to-School Blues
5 Ways You and Your Kids Can Get Back in the Groove
August can be a rough month for parents and kids alike. Especially as they get older, school can become less exciting and more dreaded—and the first few weeks of school can be a nightmare when kids have to totally overhaul their routine—but there are things parents can do to ease the transition. Here are a few ways you can make things easier on everyone concerned.
1. Talk about back-to-school anxiety
You might assume that your child is simply dreading the grind of school, but sometimes there’s more to it than that. If you find that your child seems a little down, talk about it—sometimes it’s more than just the usual blues. A new school year sometimes means losing friends, or having to make new ones. They might be dreading a particular class, or a new teacher, and just being able to talk about it can make things a lot better. Also, it can help you head off problems before they come to a head during the school year.
2. Keep things moving
Kids who are dreading school can become pretty stressful to be around. They don’t have fully-developed tools for handling (or even expressing) their anxieties, and may not even consciously recognize them—so they often come out in the form of tantrums or withdrawal. The problem comes from several sources, but one of the most serious is that kids simply have a lot of time to sit and think about it. Just giving them something to do can work wonders, so make sure they have planned activities, spend time with friends, and stay busy.
3. Maintain a sleep routine
Kids who are used to staying up and sleeping late can spend several weeks just getting acclimated, during which time their understanding will suffer, and they may even miss out on concepts that they’ll need for the rest of the school year. (This is especially true of math and science.) It can be a tough sell, but start getting kids to bed a little earlier, and don’t let them sleep in too late. If they’re basically on track by the time school starts, they’ll have a huge leg-up in understanding what’s going on—and learning is way more fun when you don’t feel like you’re in over your head.
4. Pace yourself
Don’t let the first week of school sneak up on you. If possible, schedule a meeting with your child’s teacher—it’ll start both you and your child off on a good foot with the teacher if he or she is aware of your child’s specific needs ahead of time. Get school shopping done ahead of time—most back-to-school sales start several weeks before classes begin, and being able to beat the rush of the last few days will do wonders for your stress level.
5. Start setting limits early
If your kids go suddenly from a life of zero responsibility and very little rules to the rigid environment of the classroom, it can almost feel like a punishment. Rapid changes in expectations can lead to disciplinary problems and emotional distress, so it’s best to maintain a certain level of organization and structure—things like chores, play-dates, and regular mealtimes. It’s not about being a drill sergeant; it’s about giving kids the comfort of constants. A kid who knows it’s her job to pull weeds or empty the laundry hamper has an easier time adapting to homework and studying for tests. They may not thank you at first, but they’ll be a lot happier in the long run.
Guest Blog by Mike Freiberg of HomeDaddys
Mike Freiberg is a staff writer for HomeDaddys, a resource for stay-at-home dads, work-at-home dads, and everything in between. He’s a handyman, an amateur astronomer, and a tech junkie, who loves being home with his two kids. He lives in Austin.
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