Is it that time of year already? For many family school is back in session; and for others it is right around the corner. Many children and parents are experiencing a combination of emotional and logistical stressors. Parents often share with me that they are sad to see their baby grow up, that they are exhausted with getting kids out the door (fully dressed and clean!) on time, as well as looking down the road to evenings of homework and projects. Kids and teens tell me they are dreading getting up early, having less free time and also anticipate the hard work of tests and papers. These are all typical worries that come about during a transition. However, some kids and parents are struggling with more specific and perhaps more complicated and pressing fears like bullying, “mean girls,” self image, a lack of finances for school supplies, or fear their child is not able to keep up with the academic demands.
Create a plan. For all parents and students, creating a plan is a great place to start to manage the stress. First, create a plan for getting a routine for the weekdays. Establish a time for homework, dinner, family time, relaxing time, bathing and bedtime; do the same for the morning. Next, identify where you absolutely must stand firm and where you can be more flexible in order to be more realistic for those days that are extra busy (a pop tart once a week won’t kill you, right?) Finally, make this plan something the whole family creates so that it is clear to all! It is important to eliminate as much ambiguity as possible. Thus, involving your children in this process, as well as, writing it down will help do just that.
Communicate openly. As for the more difficult and specific stressors, talk about the problems before the school begins. If last year money was tight and your child was not able to buy a yearbook, talk about how to prioritize money over the whole school year. If a group of kids or a specific child was targeting your child, talk about how to deal with this again this year now that we are one year older and wiser. Next, get the school involved. Meet the teachers, school counselors and principals. Parents go to Back to School nights and send an email to counselors and teachers that first week of school introducing yourself and share concerns. This establishes an open line of communication that will be critical to prevent and deal with any problems. Finally, keep connections with friends, family and extracurricular activities a routine part of your families weekly schedule. These connections can prove a great place to relieve stress and get positive interactions.
Empathize with your children. Finally, remember that transitions are difficult for EVERYONE so give it some time. Give extra affection and supportive words to those kids and parents who are adjusting to the “real world.” It is also important to remember that kids will take on their parent’s perspectives; therefore, parents should work at staying positive and modeling resiliency for your kids. Everything looks better in the morning; or at least Saturday morning during the school year!
Ask for help. If things don’t seem to settle down and the stressors continue to persist. I suggest consulting with a professional who may be able to offer you some insight that you do not have. Sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees. You are more than welcomed to contact me or any other counselor here at Family Solutions Counseling as we would be happy to offer our assistance to you and your family.