5 ways to make going back to school a success

NewsChannel 15 has partnered with Hand in Hand Comprehensive Therapy Specialists Inc. to provide some advice on making the stressful time surrounding sending kids back to school a little easier.

Here are five ways to make going back to school a success:

Just as you were able to figure out your summer schedule, school is ready to begin!

Fighting with kids to get them to go to bed is never any fun despite the good intentions! Making the transition from a summer schedule can be difficult for both parents and kids, but at times it can be most painful for the parents!

It is important to understand is that “this too shall pass”. While everyone is different – in general, it tends to take about 2 months for new behaviors – transitions – to feel like less of a change and more of your norm. Yep – that is right, do the math – about the time you figure out school your kids will be released for Christmas break and the cycle starts all over!

But one thing at a time! There are some small things you can do to help you through. First, make things as tangible as possible. Create a schedule and make this schedule available for all to see – put it on a calendar/chart where the whole family can see.

Second, make a plan! It is one thing to have a good schedule but you must be able to execute it. How is each event going to transpire? Changes in schedules work best with transitions built into them. For example, if 8:00 is bedtime – waiting until 8:00 to announce “go to bed” (a sudden change) can create anxiety and a rush of adrenaline for your child. This is exactly what we do not want right before we tuck our little angels into a good night of slumber. Give notice when change is about to happen (at 7:30 announce that bedtime is approaching, at 7:45 have your children begin their bedtime routine – changing into pjs, brushing teeth, settling into bed, and then finally at 8:00 announce that it is officially bed time).

Helping your children prepare and transition throughout your schedule will lead to a more successful schedule- which leads us to the final point…celebrate! Now, I’m certainly not talking about a party – that defeats the whole purpose of settling down for the evening. I also do not believe our children need rewards for every little good that they do. But, it is important for your children to know when you are proud of them. So tell them! Thank them for being so cooperative and willing to work with the family’s goals. Your child desires your approval (whether they admit it or not). A little accolade goes a very long way. You can do this!

Take advantage of the time you have left of summer

Holy Moly! The school supply list just came out and you realized that you didn’t do all the fun and wonderful things that you desired to do! Now what!?! Put down that calendar, trying to fit as much in as you can in the last few days prior to the start of school will only stress you and your child out. Remember, this whole process can be stressful enough – we certainly do not want to add any more to it!

So how can you take advantage of the time you have left with your little? First, take a deep breath! Remember, it is not about the price tag or the number of activities you do during the summer. It is about the moments within the event that are valuable and cherished. You have NOT failed your child! You can still do this! Second, look at all the activities that you had hoped to do with your child over the summer but are still sitting on your to-do list. Pick the one that will allow you the most opportunity to interact, communicate and connect with your child and circle it! Next, schedule it into your calendar, make it your priority, and make it happen. Finally, enjoy!

Remember to tune out the distractions and make your child the only important thing in your sight. Allow your child to feel your undivided attention. Remember, you will never get this moment back – breath in every moment of it and enjoy!

Manage the stressors of preparing for school to start

Let’s face it, it takes a lot to get your child ready for school. Looking at the supply list alone is enough to want to bury you head in the sand and run for cover. Red number 2 pencil, 10 glue sticks, number 2 pencils (but only a specific brand) – holy cow! Not to mention the expense of it all or the need to fight all the other parents at the store attempting the same feat! Goodbye summer and hello…..well….whatever you want to call it!

But it doesn’t all have to be bad, here is a suggestion to complete this task. First, print the list and tell yourself that you can do this! Because you can! Go through the list and identify three different categories, the supplies that were brought home last year and never used (yeah free items!), those supplies that is best purchased without your child, and finally, a small handful of items that you can purchase with your child (those items that your child is most invested).

Next, schedule a time to accomplish those items that you can get by yourself. This will allow you less distraction, more focus, and an increased likelihood that you will stay on budget. (Remember, if money is a concern, we have an amazing community that provides multiple resources for the many families in your situation. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance). Finally, Schedule a trip for you and your child to seek out those few items left on the list. It is important to set boundaries for this trip (budget, number of stores to search, timeframe, etc.) as boundaries create safety and security for your child and allows you to also stay on task. This is a great opportunity for you to model how to make a stressor in life something that can be conquered verses something that defeats you.

And let’s face it; it feels pretty darn good strolling through that store with a coffee in your hand, a smile on your face, and enjoying your time with your child as you see chaos all around you. Just say it….”success!!!!”

How to limit the stress of the transition to a new year

Let’s be honest; a new school year is full of stress – not only for your children but for you as well. So many concerns…Will my child like their teacher? Will my son make new friends? What if my daughter doesn’t make the team? There is a lot at stake here! Remember that the pressures of adjustments to transitions are a natural part of life. You and your children have many more life transitions yet to come. This is an opportunity to practice and to model how to make it through.

Your best strategy to any natural transition is to go with the flow. Fighting against natural transitions, often times, make the process harder. Having the ability to “ride out” transitions allow for the process to be more successful. If you are concerned that your son will not get along with his teacher – consider allowing the situation to play out a little.

You might be surprise to find that the teacher you were certain would wreck havoc on his little life may end up being his favorite teacher ever! The sport that your daughter didn’t make may end up being the best thing for her, allowing her opportunities to experience different things. Be a support for your child during this time. Listen to their emotions and honor their feelings. Remember, this is their experience and their opportunity to continue to work towards becoming the best them they can be! Walk beside them in their journey as they are working to figure life out.

Quit trying to be “perfect” parent

Whether we want to admit it or not there is always some nagging pressure to keep up with the other parents around you. How do they do it? Volunteer for all those activities, be the best room mom ever, get dinner on the table every night – even with vegetables, and still look so rested! Admit it, you hate them!

My advice to you is to STOP. Stop looking around and trying to compete with everything around you, this will only defeat you. Stay focused on what is important to you. Stop trying to be everything and start being you. My guess is that little spitfire, who is constantly keeping you on your toes, thinks you are pretty terrific just the way you are (even if some days he will not admit it)! Identify those things that you are good at and allow you to be connected with your child – focus on those. It is better to be present in one activity than to take on ten activities that leave you exhausted or too busy to focus on what is important. Life moves by so quickly, slow down, your value does not come from the number of activities that you do but how you are present in the activities that you are involved.

Still need more help?

If you find yourself overwhelmed BEYOND your family’s regular adjustment timeframe, we are here to help. Consider these feelings. If you are:

  •  Sad mood nearly every day
  •  Exhaustion most every day
  •  Not sleeping or sleeping too much
  •  Not taking pleasure in activities that used to be fun
  •  Not eating
  •  Dread of every task, every day
  •  Procrastinating until things pile up and seem impossible
  •  Difficulty concentrating and/or indecisiveness
  •  Nervous or fidgeting more than usual
  •  Fearful of going to school meetings or calling teachers
  •  Isolating yourself and not reaching out to friends
  •  Starting to miss work

We’re here for you and your family if you need us…when you need us. Call Hand in Hand Comprehensive Therapy Specialists if you are concerned about being overwhelmed or if you child is overwhelmed. Our licensed marriage and family therapists are specially trained to help families learn skills to reduce overwhelm and get the most out of family life.