By Jennifer Heggie, LPC-S, NCC
“Summer time, and the livin’ is (was!) easy,” as the Ella Fitzgerald song goes.
Just like it is hard for adults to go back to work after a vacation, it is just as hard for kids to transition back to school after summer break. Now that summer is over, kids are trading in their beach balls for footballs.
Going back or starting school is a big change and a big deal, and at times, can be brutal. Going from one routine to another requires time to transition. There can be a whole lot more to starting school than school starting. For kids, going back to school is like going back to work.
After a full day of lining up in a straight line, having to sit in assigned seats, changing classes, raising hands, not talking without permission, following the rules, having a few minutes to eat lunch, not much time to play on the playground or have a break, a child just has to let his hair down and unwind when he gets home from school.
After a long and hard day at school, most kids take out their exhaustion and frustration on the people who love them most. The start of school often brings out a whirlwind of unwelcoming behaviors due to exhaustion and frustration, so take shelter because they are likely coming your way.
Here are a few suggestions to handling the back to school balancing act:
- Organization—Get your house back in school shape by having a designated area for important school papers, pack school lunches the night before, and let your child help pack his lunch, lay out clothes the night before, have backpacks packed and ready by the door. Freeze a few easy dinners for the week.
- Healthy Habits—Establish regular bedtimes and mealtimes. Have a set time to cut off all electronics so your child can get a healthy amount of sleep.
- Involvement—Get involved in your child’s school. This can open up lines of communication so you are better aware of how your child is doing both academically and socially. Volunteer to help with school activities, get involved in PTO, volunteer to help with teacher appreciation week, be a homeroom mom, chaperone school field trips, or help anywhere else needed in the school.
- Realistic Expectations—Goal setting is a great way to help your child think about what he wants to accomplish during the new school year. Help your child recognize his unique talents work and with him to establish reachable goals this school year. Remember, not every child is a straight A student. Setting unrealistic goals will add undue stress to both you and your child.
- Be Positive—Be optimistic and encourage your child to embrace the same outlook. Point out good things that happened last school year and upcoming things to look forward to this school year.
- Extracurricular Activities—Go for quality, not quantity. Evaluate extracurricular activities and consider your family schedule and personal energy level. Your child will benefit most from one to two activities that are fun, promote social development, and teach new skills. Being involved in too many extracurricular activities can be stressful and make it harder to concentrate on schoolwork.
- Attend Church and Daily Prayer Time—Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”. Pray for your children, their teachers, school personnel, and yourself to have a good day and be safe. Make church attendance a regular part of your weekly schedule.
Working through the challenges of the back-to-school balancing act can help both you and your child learn to handle changes in routine and build resilience.