How to calm back to school jitters
Late summer comes early to the Northwest. Those long, warmer days, lazily spent by the water, or in your yard, will soon be replaced by shorter, cooler days. The slower, more relaxed pace of summer will quicken as September comes into view.
By now, I hear children complain about the boredom of unstructured summer days. I can feel a slow, but steady build-up of energy and excitement as youngsters turn their attention toward the start of school---just a few days or weeks away.
Preparing children for school starts early. Back to school shopping sales are in high gear. The new back packs, high style sneakers, and baggy pants for teens are flying off of store shelves.
But anticipation brings both excitement and apprehension. Fears arise that were hidden during deep summer. Children wonder: “Will I like my new teacher? How will I do this year? What if I don’t make the team? Who will be in my class?"
Typically, children’s fears aren’t communicated verbally. More often, they are expressed in troublesome behavior. Bedtime becomes a battle. “Clothing wars” start up after a long summer vacation. Teenagers become more defiant and moody. Tears flow easily and seemingly for no reason.
Transitions are difficult for kids. Children live forever in the present. The days before school starts, signals an uncertain future, which disturbs their calm.
Here are some ways to help youngsters calm those jitters:
Emphasize the positive. “Kids like to look forward to things that they like,” says Diane Ray, Ph.D., child clinical psychologist. “ Know what makes your child feel good about school and talk about those activities.”
Acknowledge their concerns. When children do bring up fears about school, reassuring them fosters repression instead of expression. Instead, allow them to give voice to their concerns. Ask them to make a list of their fears, concerns, and hopes. Share your own back to school experiences with them.
Start preparing early. Everyone gets a little rusty over the summer. Have children start reading before school. Encourage them to write about their vacation. These activities prime the pump for activities that will take place in September. Elementary school teachers recommend that parents establish a family reading time where everyone reads together and then discusses their books with each other.
Have youngsters start waking up earlier.This is a good way to avoid the shock of early school starts. This is especially helpful for older children who have been going to bed late and sleeping late.
Establish reasonable expectations for the new school year. The start of a new school year is a great opportunity to help children develop good study habits. Help them get off to a successful start by establishing clear rules and structures. Now is the time to start limiting television watching, X-box, and computer games.
Remember, don’t push children to perform. School already has its own share of pressures. The best recipe for success is to provide children with love, support, and consistency.