Easing the Stress of Going Back to School
Children have stresses too. Summer is usually stress-free, but then, as August passes the mid-way point, there are the “first day of school jitters.”
Children usually reflect parental attitudes. Anxiety or enthusiasm is equally infectious. A new situation is best met with preparation so devote some of the last days of summer vacation to the requirements for school:
Shopping for school supplies and clothing
- Kids always like new things. For school supplies give them color choices, one special item, and something new to wear that they love. This builds a child’s self-esteem and gives confidence to face the new situation.
- Regarding clothes, go with your child’s taste – whether it be bright colors, or denim, or funky – within the limits of your budget.
- At the arts and crafts store there are inexpensive t-shirts that allow sew-ons or glue-ons or tie-dye so your child can create his or her style.
- If offered some hand-me-downs, going through them with your child can be an adventure. There may be some items your child has always admired or some great basics – like plain shirts and jeans, freeing up your budget for more special items.
Prepare a “study station” at home
A “study station” is a set-aside place free of TV and cell phones, and includes:
Quality nutrition is vital for school stress
- a chair
- a table or desk
- a lamp
- a calendar
- a clock
- storage for stationary supplies
- a holder for notices
- a wastebasket
- A designated time should be discussed and established for homework.
- Reference books such as a dictionary, thesaurus, and atlas are essential.
Every child and teen needs nutritional resources to provide:
- immunity to protect against disease
- stamina for physical activities and mental challenges
- ability to cope with stress
Nutritional needs are as easy as 1-2-3.
- 1 – Protein
- 2 – Vegetables
- 3 – Fruits
Emphasis these 3 categories and the grains are automatic as in sandwiches to package the protein and vegetables and cereals to support fruits.
But diet alone cannot provide all that’s needed. Optimal supplements provide the A, B, C’s:
- A – antioxidants for protection against disease
- B – B vitamins for stamina
- C – Minerals for stress management
Transitioning to the new school routine
- One week before the start of school, start getting your child up earlier to re-program their inner clock. The sun sets earlier anyway, so get them to bed earlier.
- When school begins, get yourself up earlier and allow yourself a coffee and get ready time so you can then help your child get ready.
- Allow enough time for children to use the bathroom, dress, eat breakfast, brush teeth, and enough time to get to school 10-15 minutes early. Being late for school puts more stress on parent and child.
- If packing a lunch and/or snacks, then do this together the night before. Allow children choices where possible, and give them some of the responsibility of washing, wrapping, packing, etc.
- You know your offspring better than anyone. If there are fears about riding the bus or attending a new school, then go on a fun bus ride together and/or walk around the new school building in advance. Familiarity builds confidence, and your child will feel supported by you if you’ve faced these new steps together.
Prepare your child for new people
Relationships at school are sometimes the most feared and can cause children the most stress. Knowing that the other children are nervous too can dispel some fears. Other children met at school will provide new friends and playmates.
Assure your child that the teacher is there to help children learn. Knowing that the teacher will expect your child to follow her direction, not interrupt, and use his or her indoor voice will put any young child at ease about what to expect.
When an older child fears a teacher because of rumor or reputation, such as “she’s really hard,” assure your child that one can learn more from a so-called “hard” teacher. It’s important to pay attention to what the teacher wants; as the child adjusts to the teacher’s way your child will find a way to get along. Reassure your child that they can “handle it” and that a challenge needs to be faced, not avoided. Not all the people in one’s life are favorites. Everyone has to learn to get along with each other. When a parent steps in too often, or too early, then the child doesn’t learn strategies to cope on his or her own.
Mistakes give us a chance to learn. We all make them. Failure happens. Ask anyone. We’ve all failed at something. Find interests that give your child success and the mistakes and failures will diminish in importance.
Tiredness begets stress
When children get tired – physically or mentally – they respond in similar ways to adults; they get cranky, naughty, bored, clumsy, stubborn, oppositional and sullen. Children do not want to “give in” to tiredness or rest. They prefer that parents’ attention will make it better. It rests with the parents then to do some strategic planning and preparation:
Family support through communication
- Shopping is particularly tiresome to a child or teen. Break it into short segments and shop for the most important item first. Bribe them! “As soon as we buy your school supplies we’ll get a hotdog at the food court” (fast food has its place!).
- One way to make shorter trips is to take only one child at time; Or to tackle one kind of shopping at a time – clothes-only on one trip, books and stationary another trip.
- If you can avoid it don’t take children shopping for things that don’t concern them – like wedding gifts, adult clothes, etc. They’ll have more fun at home or with friends or family.
- The first days and weeks of school are especially tiresome. Plan for this by minimizing external activities, and allowing wind-down time after dinner and quiet time before bed. You may find your child is cranky and/or sleepy over dinner. Extra sleep will help them cope with the challenges of a new routine. By October they will have found their groove.
- Extra curricular activities – be they sports, music, languages, etc – are wonderful experiences and another great source for childhood friendships, and relieving stress. Spread them out throughout the week as much as possible, and allow for family and “down time” too.
When the school day is done, and the child is “free from prison” it’s often difficult to find out “how it went.” My son wouldn’t share a thing about school no matter how many questions I asked, until finally he started university. Then I received such an earful I had to drop everything and just listen. I’ll never forget those awesome visits!
Make yourself available. Be interested. Be positive. Ask if they have homework. If the child doesn’t want to talk about school, ask about something else that you know he or she likes to talk about … eventually, it works!