For millions of vacationing, carefree children the phrase “back-to-school” provokes mass hysteria. Now with September just around the corner, it’s time for parents to put away the beach umbrella, sunblock, and brace for impact.
How can you make the back-to-school transition less of a trip to crazy town?
Soothing Back to School Angst
Anxiety is driven by unknowns; the more unknowns, the more apprehension. The key to a smoother transition back to school is to minimize uncertainties by taking the mystery out of the first day of school and addressing all the troublesome fears that poke at your kid, such as:
What class will I be in?
Will my friends be with me?
Who is my new teacher?
Emotional stress is the fossil fuel of meltdowns, histrionics and aggressive behavior. The more insecure that kids feel, the more likely their parents will become the dumping ground for unrelieved tension.
Taking the Sting Out of Returning to School
Let’s look at the five ways to help reduce that risk of your kid becoming a back-to-school trainwreck:
1. Get Sleep Back on Track
Is your kid up all night? Raising with the setting sun? That may work for vampires, but it’s doesn’t work for students. Get your kid’s sleep schedule back on track -- and fast. Start at least two weeks before school begins. Even better, try a few practice days, preparing breakfast, picking out clothes in advance, leaving the house early, etc. Bottom line: starting the new school year sleep deprived spells disaster for everyone. Do whatever you can to get your creature-of-the-night back on a healthy timetable and a avoid meltdown when the big day arrives.
2. Start a Day Planner
Create a framework for the first week. Hang a calendar in your kid’s room, start a countdown, review the class schedule, put together a plan for travel, walk to the school, arrange for playdates with classmates, take a school tour, set up a meeting with the new teacher or guidance counselor. Even if your kid resists, he’ll thank you later. These tasks seem mundane, but are crucial in lowering anxiety and keeping the back-to-school crazies at bay.
3. Keep Your Cool
As day one approaches, chances are your kid is going to be moody and irritable. Take outbursts in stride. Don’t become reactive or escalate conflicts. As much as possible, listen to your kids worries; don’t rush to advice. Listening is healing, the basis for all psychotherapies. Listening and understanding your kid will relieve anxiety rather than amplifying it. Don’t allow for obsession fears to take root. Shelve the school conversation and make time for having fun together.
4. Get Your Kid Moving
I’ve said this million times in parenting workshops and I’ll say it again here: a cardio workout is key to lowering tension, stabilizing moods and increasing confidence in kids. In fact, studies show that working out three times a week can reduce anxiety and depression up to seventy percent. Seventy percent! The nitty-gritty: find a way to get your kid active before school starts. Re-boot sports activities, start bike riding, take a hike (literally)—whatever it takes to get your little sloth moving again.
5. Prepare Yourself
Once you have prepared your kid, it’s time to prepare yourself. Remember, self-care and child-care go hand in hand. Most parents finish the summer in a state of parenting burnout, just as moody and stressed as their kids. Get enough sleep, exercise, nurture creative outlets, put aside time for enjoyable activities with your partner or friends. You’ll be a better parent, and a better human being.