Beat the Back to School Blues
Making the back-to-school transition is often as much about getting yourself as a parent ready for the new year as it is for your children. For parents of younger children, it usually means a new grade, new teacher, or maybe even a new school. For parents of teens, it sometimes means experiencing the empty (or emptier) nest for the first time as kids go off to college. Whichever the case, some simple planning can make a positive difference between a stressful time, or a successful transition.
When it comes to preparing young children for a new school year, there are steps you can take that will magnify the excitement and minimize the stress of starting a new school year.
- Get the Dates Right: As soon as the school calendar has been published, take the time needed to methodically record important dates (including setting reminder alerts) for all of the major events and holidays so that you are never caught off guard with stressful, last-minute preparations.
- Train Up for Sleep: Get the school-time routine in place at least one week (preferably two weeks) before school starts. It’s a good idea to also adjust meal times to match the school’s daily schedule.
- Discuss Safety: Your kids will be safe at school, but it’s still important to provide guidance on safety related matters and steps your children should take before and after school to remain safe.
- Tame the Butterflies: Talk to your children about their expectations and concerns about the new school year. Ask open-ended questions (ex. “What are your thoughts about starting school?”) and take the time to listen before giving advice. Remind them (and yourself) that they will need time to adjust.
Although the preceding steps can prove to be equally useful to parents of teens sending their kids off to college, the military, or just to live on his/her own, there are some unique considerations worth noting. The primary difference is often the powerful feeling of loss.
Considerations to make when facing the empty nest
- See it as an adventure vs. a loss
- Think of your home as their permanent base and that they are out to explore, learn, and achieve with the safety net of your support.
- Establish new ways of “staying close”
- Be open to using new technologies (such as Skype) and establishing new traditions when you can “be together” from a distance.
- Understand the change as a normal stage of life
- Know that it can take months to even a couple of years to go from an actively involved parent to a more independent man/woman again.
- Pay attention to yourself
- This is your change to invest more time in yourself. Take up that hobby that you’ve always wanted to or start a new school, career, or volunteer position.
- Better yet, make your physical and mental health your top priorities and take steps towards healthier living.
- Rediscover your mate
- Allow time for your relationship to adjust to the changes as well. This can be an exciting new time filled with opportunities to share together.
- Focus on what you have gained by the change
- Notice that there may be fewer house chores to do, less grocery to buy, and fewer items to store.
- Take the time to reflect on a job-well-done by raising children who are capable of going out into the world and thriving on their own. This is no small task.
For more information on getting kids ready for back to school, check out the resources at PBS KIDS (click on image)
-by Dr Edrick Dorian