As hard as it is to believe, the start of school is right around the corner. As we move away from backyard BBQ’s and long days at the pool to backpacks and books, we gear up our little darlings to reignite all of that synaptic connection-making. Making the transition from the lazy days of summer to the regimen of the school year doesn't have to be hard.
As a child and adolescent therapist, I often advise parents to “set your child up for success.” It’s much easier to prevent a problem then to try to address it after it has already happened. Children do much better, and their self esteem stays intact, if they are set up for success from the beginning. This is where parents can provide some crucial guidance.
Here are some recommendations to ease into the school year:
- Start having conversations now about the new school year. The dinner table is a perfect time and place, and hopefully tech-free. Let your child express any feelings of trepidation or nervousness, particularly if there is a bigger transition, such as from elementary to middle or middle to high school.
- If your child is moving on to another building, taking a walk up to the new school and checking it out from the outside is a good way to build excitement and help ease some of the nervousness that comes with change.
- Getting a school flag or getting your child something small from one of the local stores that features school colors and/or mascots can be a fun way to help the whole family feel part of a new setting and school.
- Avoid the bedtime battle. Replace the after-dinner television with some age-appropriate reading. A trip to one of Grosse Pointe’s fabulous libraries would be just right for a lazy, late-August afternoon.
- Instead of a 9 or 10 P.M ‘lights out”, set bedtime back 15 minutes every couple of days, so that by Labor Day weekend heads are hitting the pillow close to or right when the target time is for a school night.
- Go over the school supply list with your child, and have them begin to gather from around the house what they already have, and to note what they still need.
- Lastly, find time to take each child out for some one-on-one school shopping time. Even if you get the bulk done in an afternoon blitz of bargain sales sans-kids, save one or two special things for some much needed alone time which I promise you, is serious parent-cred in the bank.
My 8-year-old twins treasure alone time with myself or my husband. I take them to pick the item they care most about--their backpack. This is a short adventure that allows my daughters to have some time with me, to talk about what they anticipate about the school year and to understand that school is something to anticipate with excitement and interest.
There are many small, enjoyable ways to get the entire family back into the mind-set of school and routine. Keep in mind that if you grumble about the end of summer and the start of school, your child picks up on that and might incorporate a negative attitude toward school as well. Modeling proactive behavior, making positive comments and suggesting all of the possibilities a new school year can bring sends the message to your child that while summer is sweet, the fun doesn’t have to end there.