The anticipation of school brings excitement
and anxiety. Summer is over and the responsibilities of homework schedules,
tests and structured days return. Parents and children experience
the stress of academic and social pressures. Anticipating change can
spell the difference between feeling settled by the end of fall term
or experiencing distress. You can stem the tide of stress by preparing
yourself and your family for the transition back to school in the
Creating a household schedule to deal with the increased
workload is a must! Make schedules your friend, not your enemy. Spend
20 minutes preparing lunches, getting clothes set out to be worn the
next day and anticipating travel arrangements to and from school.
Older children (ages 10 and up) can take on some of these tasks themselves,
but may still need your support initiating this kind of structure.
Start with the basic needs, but do not stop there.
All children need help organizing their homework/study
schedules. Helping them do so may ensure that they do not fall behind
in the beginning of the school year, which could have a negative effect
on their learning and self-esteem the rest of the school year. Sit
down with your children -- even your teenagers -- and make a list
of what back-to-school supplies are needed. Include clothes, shoes,
binders, organizers, pencils, file folders and tabs. Make a trip to
the store together and involve your child in picking out his or her
favorite colored folders and latest style clothing. This will help
your child become excited about the school year and motivated toward
Before school begins, sit down again with your children
individually to help them develop a system for success that works.
Use colored dividers and tabs for different subjects. Utilize pockets
in folders for incoming and outgoing homework. Let them know that
their parents are there to help them put school papers in proper places
when the school year begins, and assist them in anticipating their
needs for scheduling study time and developing healthy study habits.
The best-laid plans can lead to naught if follow-up
does not occur. Besides checking in with your child after the first
day of school, schedule time to review his or her classes and the
responsibilities for the week, the month or the semester (for high
school students). Responsibilities and expectations for academic work
increase with the grade. Junior high and high school students are
particularly vulnerable if they are not well organized. Since the
hormones are raging, and social pressures are distracting, these students
may particularly need your help -- even though they are older!
Check in each week to review your child's ability
to use the system you have developed together. Attend back-to-school
night in the fall to make contact with you child's teacher(s) and
be in touch with the physical environment. By making it a point to
be connected to their child's school life, parents glean insight and
gain invaluable information about how to assist children throughout
the year. School events, activities and teacher-parent conferences
provide avenues for contact. Use these opportunities!
Staying in touch with your child's school environment
allows you to be ready to troubleshoot obstacles that arise, particularly
if you are trying to turn around a child's previous negative experience.
Consider tutoring resources (sometimes available for free during lunchtime
or study periods). You may see your job as "secretary" to your child's
needs in some cases. Some children are more capable of organization
than others. Those who need greater assistance may require that you
connect them with resources that are available in the school environment
but which they have simply ignored.
NURTURE EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS
Regular checking-in about social activities, sports
and academics can take place in the evenings, particularly if you
work outside the home full-time. Make dinnertime a place to gather
and review your days. This is your time to nurture and be nurtured
through a sense of belonging, so make them positive interactions.
In other words, check in with your youngsters and your spouse, but
keep the goal of your interaction supportive and nurturing. Protect
this time from negative stresses by devoting separate time to the
specifics of a crisis or a highly stressful problem later that evening.
Bedtime is a good opportunity to make yourself emotionally
available to your youngsters and your teens. A back rub for your tired
athlete, for example, is a good way to hear about your child's thoughts,
challenges and dilemmas. Although it may sound as though you would
be too tired by the end of the day to nurture another, try it! You
will be amazed at the amount you get back from this kind of emotional
connecting with your child. Work through any initial resistance (tiredness).
You will be rewarded with the energy that comes from positive family
TROUBLESHOOT IN OCTOBER
Expect some obstacle to arise about a month to six
weeks after school begins. Whatever adjustment difficulties are present
for your child will become evident in some form. A breakdown in the
system of organization you have created together means you need to
reassess and reestablish this structure. Homework or study problems
or relationship problems with authorities or peers will likely cause
some kind of stress for you and your child at this time, if they are
issues. The key here is to EXPECT it!
Do not panic. Take October in stride. Your ability
to approach this period calmly is a must. Psychologically, it may
also be a time of stress for those affected by the shortening of the
daylight hours. The last "feel" of summer is gone and winter lies
ahead. Make warm fires and take long baths. Turn to your spouse and
friends for comfort and support. You will find that if you anticipate
this likely "slump," you are more likely to have the reserves necessary
to help your children face their problems in a positive way. This
also sets the tone for the rest of the year. Obstacles that are handled
calmly and thoroughly in fall create a clearer passage for enjoyment
of the springtime!
. . . AND MORE ORGANIZING!
When I was young, I read a quote somewhere that said,
"Organization is the highest level of creativity." I had previously
thought of organizational activities as bland, even boring, but somewhat
necessary. Yet, the phrase rang in my mind, and over the years I have
come to understand organizational energy as a truly generative, life-giving
Invite your children to participate in the excitement
of organization. Creating a sense of order can help them enjoy a healthy
balance of work and play. They will learn that schedules can be their
"friend," too. Healthy organization, follow through and troubleshooting
can provide children (and parents!) with a sense of accomplishment
in feeling prepared instead of overwhelmed by the demands of the back-to-school