Dr. Paul's Tips: Back to School
I can’t believe it! The long, warm days of summer are coming to an end. And what a summer! Aside from some days of smoky haze, we had great weather. The long dry spell made up for the long wet winter. But I will still savor the sunny days of September.
For kids and parents, the days before the start of the school year are busy. Families fill the malls with back to school shoppers— buying new clothes, new shoes, and replacements for worn out backpacks. I always loved getting school supplies—new notebooks, pencils, and crayons.
But it’s a stressful time too. While kids are excited about starting a new grade, they are also anxious. Will third grade be much harder than second grade? Ninth graders, leaving the security of middle school, worry about finding their way around a much bigger school. What if they get pushed around by seniors? Children fret--will my friends from last year still like me? Will I make new friends? Will I have someone to eat lunch with? What if I hate my teacher? What if I do badly?
Parents worry about the schedule. Ferrying kids to sports, clubs, and activities is a challenge. Moms and Dads need onboard computers to figure out the schedule and who does what. Of course, parents are happy that school is starting. Kids have been getting bored and restless during the lazy days of August.
Here’s how to have smoother start to the school year:
Acknowledge your children’s fears.
It’s natural to want to reassure children that all will be well. But how can you know that for sure? Better to simply to listen and nod—Yes, anticipating new experiences is both exciting and scary. Let your kids know that you have confidence in them---whatever may come, they will find their way.
Is it necessary for Sam to do soccer, track, and take music lessons? Isn’t it important to have some down time? How much is too much? Their appetite for experience may be greater than their ability to manage all of their activities and school work. It’s your job to set the limits.
Limit game, social media, and text time.
I know, when it comes to this issue I sound like a broken record. Kids will nickel and dime their electronic time until their eyes fall out of their heads. “Just five more minutes!” can add up over the weeks and months. Establish limits for the school year and stick to them!
Help you children set goals for the new school year.
It’s useful to consider what goals your child has for the coming year—ask her. What are your goals for her? Establish 1-3 goals for the year and post them on the fridge. It’s easy to forget where we want to go in the craziness of daily life.
Establish set homework times.
I always put my homework off to the last minute. A professional procrastinator, I could always find something better to do than homework. Better to have students do their homework first, and then be rewarded with high interest activities. Don’t let the exception become the rule.
Adequate sleep is essential.
It’s a well-known fact that High Schoolers are frequently sleep deprived. Sleep experts know that they are not getting enough sleep. Teens and Tweens stay up late texting their friends, while they’re in bed and you’re already asleep! It may be necessary for you to become the smart phone police. Don’t be shy. Your kids need the rest even more than you do.
Insist on family meals.
All of the studies show that families that eat together have more communication, which leads to fewer problems, particularly during the teen years. Don’t give in to teens who are always too busy to sit down with their family.
The new school year is a great time to revisit family values and to make sure that they are solidly represented in the new year.