"Mom, I don't want to go to school."
It's only the first month of school and the honeymoon is over already?! Unfortunately, it only takes a few weeks for the excitement to wear off and the routine to become stressful.
What can parents do?
Here's a few quick tips to help with the transition:
1. Be patient during the adjustment period
The start of a school year brings new teachers and classrooms, homework expectations and rushed morning routines. This can be stressful for kids of all ages, and their parents too! You might begin to see changes in your child's behavior (moodiness, complaints of headaches or stomach issues, a change in eating/sleeping habits). Their bodies are used to summertime schedules, playing all day and no homework demands. It takes at least a month to make the switch in schedules, so a little irritability isn't uncommon.
2. Be prepared for backsliding
The beginning of the school year is exciting! Unfortunately, the honeymoon eventually comes to an end and the complaining begins. Be prepared for the switch in attitude, it usually hits around week 3 or 4 as their bodies adjust to the new routine and the demands of long school days. Pack a little extra patience and understanding to get them through this period.
3. Be diligent about routines
"Everyone's backpacks and lunches are getting packed at night so we aren't rushed in the morning!"
Sound familiar? Some families are great at setting and sticking to a routine, others start with routines then quickly fall back into chaos. One great way to reduce stress is to figure out the "high tension" times of day and work together to problem solve this issue. For tips on the problem solving process, see 4 Steps to a Better School Year.
4. Be ready to listen and support
Allow your children time to express their concerns and share their day's activities. Listen for feelings attached to their stories and reflect those in your responses (i.e., "So you were disappointed you didn't get to sit next to Emma?"), it will help them feel heard, valued and validated.
5. Be encouraging
When kids get overwhelmed by change, they find it difficult to remember that things will settle down, just as it does every school year. Taking time to brainstorm solutions with them will give them a sense of power and control when things feel unsettled.
One important tip: During the brainstorm session, allow funny ideas to be shared as well! "Mom, riding an elephant would be better than the school bus!" Learning how to use humor to deal with stress is a great life lesson!
6. Be mindful of schedules
Along with the start of school comes sports and activity schedules. Practices, games and meetings added to an already long day can exhaust a child. There seems to be an underlying push to define "well rounded kids" as those with the busiest schedules. Honestly, what good is a full calendar if everyone is completely stressed at the end of the week?! Let kids be kids, encourage one activity/sport each season to keep them active and social, but be okay with not having every day packed with "to-do's"!
A few other suggestions:
Keep kids on a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends
Protein filled breakfasts keep kids fueled for their mornings
Help kids settle in at night by reading together before bed
Have backpacks ready before bedtime to reduce morning stress
Set time aside each day (even 5-10 mins) to check in with each child to see if there is anything they need your undivided attention for (you can set aside time later to talk about the issue). This reassures your kids that you're interested in their day and they're an important part of your day!
For additional tips for a successful school year and bridging the gap between home and school, visit the "Connections" section under our Resources tab.
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