As published on The Huffington Post
It’s hard to believe the lazy days of summer are close at hand and with that comes the ushering in of the back to school blues. Here is how it typically goes… a couple of weeks before the beginning of school, the kids start moaning and groaning about school starting soon and the week before, the parents are scurrying around with an air of panic and short tempered because of all that has to get done; and the night before school the child is told to go to bed early because school starts the next day. And then we wonder why the kids start school tired, with a bad attitude, and stressed out. It’s the abrupt switch in routine and mindset that is jarring to the kids. No doubt with the onset of the school year, the pace of life shifts, but if you start early and ease into it, I guarantee your kids and your quality of life will be much improved. The key here is to put strategies into place that are easy to keep.
Parents, get yourselves organized well in advance; no rushing at the last minute to get supplies, books, uniforms or filling out paperwork as that only adds to the child’s anxiety.
Develop a Command Center. This is set up in a location where the kids will pass by it every day. Have a white board where the kids write down what they need 3 days in advance of needing it, an in and ‘out’ box with their names on it. As the kids unpack their book bags, they put any papers you need to read or sign in the ‘in’ box and in the morning, they go to the ‘out’ box and take whatever is in there. Also, have a calendar so they see what their activities are and any special things they need for that day. This system accomplishes several things: children thrive on structure, they have the security of knowing where to look for information, and it teaches them responsibility.
Create a safe, stress free area at home where your child knows he/she can go to have quiet time or unwind. It can be a corner of their room that you set up with big pillows, a blanket, coloring books, crayons, and music. This is an unplug zone – no computers or phones.
Model stress free living as best you can as your point of view regarding stress and how they see you handle it will invariably become theirs. Your mood sets their mood.
Talk positively about the upcoming school year; inquire as to what after school activities they would like to do, but do not over schedule them. Acknowledge them being nervous about the new year and brainstorm ways to ease that nervousness. Keep the focus on the positive and not about how the previous year went. Keep communication open by making yourself available to listen, not necessarily to talk. If they start to get anxious, redirect their thoughts to the fun they had over the summer instead of letting them linger on the uncertainties of the school year.
About two weeks before the first day of school go over what they need with them and make sure all is in place. Let them know in advance that the last week of summer vacation, you will start getting into school mode, which means going to bed at the set school time. During that week, talk with them about your school year expectations, go over the Command Center and make a cheat sheet with their schedule, locker combo, teachers’ names and room numbers if they are too young to have a phone in which to put it in.
Once school starts, have a nighttime routine of packing lunches, putting clothes out, alarm setting, and placing backpacks by the door. In the morning, parents, please don’t just open the bedroom door, throw on the light switch, and yell, “Time to get up.” No wonder kids wake up in a foul mood! Give them a few minutes of cuddle time and then turn on the light. That connect time in the morning will make all the difference in the world for both of you. Making them a healthy breakfast is key and make sure to send them out the door with a bottle of water. Staying hydrated creates less fatigue, better mood and memory. After school, give them play and quiet time and a structured time and environment in which to complete their homework.
And last but certainly not least, it is never too early to teach your children to think positively, to change their perspective on things, and of course, to laugh as often as you can. Except of course in class.