The school year is around the corner
Sigh. Summer is winding down in the Northwest. The unmistakable signs are here—brisk mornings, shorter days, and the back to school sales. Kids have been getting bored for a while now—looking forward to new backpacks, new classes, new teachers, and seeing old friends that haven’t been around over the summer. The back to school pace is quickening.
I was one of those kids that always liked school. I liked to have a large package of pencils which I would sharpen endlessly. My plaid pencil case was filled to the brim. Buying school supplies helped me anticipate the new school year and psychologically prepare for the coming season. Of course, as I got older, especially in High School, my enthusiasm waned. I didn't want the lazy days of summer to ever end!
Parents are more than ready for school to start! The less structured days of summer were fun, but younger kids like structure and predictability too. School provides the rhythm that young kids prefer—knowing what’s in front of them, and knowing what’s expected.
Despite the growing excitement, there can be mounting anxiety too. Will my old friends still like me? Will I make new friends? What if I hate my teacher? What if she hates me? Will I get good grades? The list of worries can be long.
Here are some ways of smoothing out the bumps of this yearly transition:
Think about the ground rules for the coming school year.
What do you learn from last year’s school experience? What went well? What needs improvement? What tweaks to their schedule makes the most sense? Children depend on parents to set limits and then enforce them. How much screen time on weekdays and weekends? When can they be used and when do they power off? What about structured time for school work?
Call a family meeting a week before school begins.
Bring everyone together for a family meeting when you made your decisions. Discuss these issues with your kids—on some issues small amounts of negotiation make sense, but figure out in advance what and where you’re willing to bend and where you want to hold the line.
Some grades area big step up in demand.
Third grade, 7th grade, 9th grade, 11th grade, and freshman year in college are big jumps in academic demand—with a greater need for sustained attention, increased homework, and harder work. Be prepared! If kids don’t increase their effort in these new grades, they will be shocked!
Remember, reassurance isn’t always helpful. Let kids express their fears. Listen, without trying to make them feel better. Ask them how they might handle problems if they do arise. Let them find their own solutions.
Give teens a budget for back to school shopping.
Setting a budget for back to school shopping and making them stick with it, is a great lesson in economic decision making. Buying an expensive item may mean that you don’t get something else. It gives them the freedom to choose their own clothes, but it also teaches them responsibility.
Start scaling back bedtimes before school starts.
During the summer months, bedtimes creep up. Start pushing them back a week before school so it won’t be such a shock if they get up earlier.
Remember, it takes a couple of weeks for the new school year’s dust to settle. Be patient.