I hate to say it, but the stores are stocking up on all things school related. Backpacks, lunch boxes, spiral notebooks...they are all making their way back to the aisles of our favorite stores. Most of us are still enjoying the dog days of summer and a freer, more laid back schedule. If you ask
your kids, they will probably say they don't even want to think about school starting! (Can you blame them?!) I wanted to talk to you about the kids who may be saying they don't want to think about school, but secretly, they are thinking about it. In actuality, they are dreading it to the point of feeling anxious and unhappy. There are many kids who are seeing the back to school sales begin and they are feeling a knot in their stomach. Why? School amps up their anxiety. Many parents believe it's just something kids goes through. After all, who wants to give up the fun and freedom of summer break for morning wake up alarms, school schedules and the dreaded homework every afternoon?
What the kids are saying It could be not wanting to be on a schedule, but it could be something more! Your child may be dreading school because of all the behind the scenes stress that is a part of their day. It's the things we don't ask about, but need to! When I asked a group of teens, "What's something about school you wish your parents understood?" their answers included: "I walk into school every day wondering if I'm going to fit in or do something stupid that others will judge me for. " "I feel like no matter what I do, others are just waiting to make fun of me so I try to lay low and just get through the day."
"There is so much pressure to know what we want to do after high school. I honestly don't have a clue, and I feel dumb for not knowing because everyone else knows what they'll be doing." "There is way too much pressure to be in all the honors classes. They tell us that's what colleges look for, but I'm just not an 'honors' level student. I do okay but the AP/Honors things are just too much." It's not like it used to be
Parents, things have changed! We are raising kids in a society that is connected (by technology) but more disconnected (emotionally) than ever before. There are other issues, including: TESTING: Our kids are under more scrutiny than ever before. There are state testing periods multiple times throughout the year. While we are told "it's a necessary requirement for funding," the price on the mental and emotional health of our kids isn't factored in. Our kindergarten teachers, bless them, are expected to assess kiddos within weeks of the start of the school year. Some of these kids are trying to figure out how to follow directions, interact within a larger group of kids or deal with being in school for the first time...and yet we need to assess them right away? Our state has the "3rd grade reading guarantee" which is a test given to make sure a child is ready to move to 4th grade. Our kids see it as a test that will determine 1) am I smart 2) will I be left behind when all my friends move up? I've had parents tell me their 3rd grader is having a panic attack over these tests. Don't even get me started on the high school testing! It wears on the kids and they feel they need to perform well because they know teacher evaluations include "good scoring" by their students on these tests. SOCIAL MEDIA: Yep, this is another area that has our kids stressed. They openly share the pressure they feel for "likes, retweets" and big follower numbers. One girl told me some kids will spend hours getting "just the right pose" before they post a single picture. Yep, 200 tries for the "best" shot.
Kids measure their self worth by the response of their followers. It can make or break their day. Then there's the online bullying that is nothing like the classroom bullying some of us endured. When we went home, it was done for the day. Our kids are connected 24/7 through technology and they see the mean and nasty things other kids are saying, they internalize it and it wears them down. Sure, they could unplug from social media, but you know how hard that is PEER PRESSURE: We have all dealt with it. Now kids are pushing the limits even more and it's including things that are well beyond their capability to make good decisions about. Drugs, partying, sexting,...the 15-year-old brain is not developed enough to deal with any of that and yet if you ask your kids, they've either tried it or know friends who do it. What can we do? First of all, know that you can set yourself up to be the most influential person in your child's life, even if they are teens. When you talk to your kids about back to school things, ask them open ended questions and LISTEN really well to their answers. Let them know they can talk to you about anything. If they are reluctant, you can start a conversation at the dinner table in a general way. I remember using the phrase, &q