Three ways to help your kids get back to school with a smile

Peace at Home August 22, 2017 | Ruth Freeman

Parents often tell me they want to have fun in that last week before school starts. They might regret trips not taken, summer visions not realized, promises not quite kept. So – it might be amusement parks or beach days or treats or whatever the parents’ fantasy of the ideal summer that wasn’t realized.

Take a breath. Consider telling yourself a different story. And try to see it from your child’s point of view.

Yes, they want to have fun. Fun is an essential ingredient in positive attachments, child development and family life. But it is just one ingredient among other important gifts we give our children that they really need.

They need a “holding environment” that supports them to grow and develop into happy, connected, successful adults. Even if you don’t feel like you are one of those, you can raise children who can grow into just that kind of adult!

Here are some suggestions for making the transition back to school one that will inspire your child to be positive and productive.

  • Talk with your child over the course of the next week or even after school starts and ask some of these questions:
    • What’s one thing you wished you had done this summer that didn’t happen?
    • What is one thing about the start of school that you are looking forward to?
    • What’s your biggest concern about going back to school?
    • What’s one way you want to be different this coming school year?
    • What is one goal you want to accomplish at school this year?
  • Call a family meeting
    • Agree on one or two fun things you will do as a family before school starts. If everyone can’t agree, let the kids know parents will make the decision unless they want to try to meet one more time in order to try to come to agreement together.
    • If you don’t already do so, talk together about making family meetings a regular part of your schedule.
    • Make a plan to transition bedtime and wake up time gradually – include the kids in creating the plan.
    • Review day to day family schedule changes and invite children’s suggestions about how to best carry out the schedule.
    • Review chores and household roles – invite children’s input into how you will all contribute to getting things done.
    • Review family rules and see if they need to be updated (or create them together). Ask kids for their suggestions about what kind of consequences will help them remember to follow rules, get chores done and keep agreements. Make sure you understand that you need to follow the rules as well. Make consequences for yourself if necessary. (I did this with my 12 year old daughter and 13 year old foster son when we were trying to reduce sarcasm – I had more consequences than they did!)
  • Consider your own emotions and needs during this transition
    • Notice with care how you feel about the start of school. What was the start of school like for you as a child? What kind of memories does it bring back? In what ways do these memories drive how you do this with your kids – both positively and maybe negatively?
    • Talk with your partner, a family member, friend or other trusted person about your feelings and needs during this transition
    • Make a plan to take care of yourself. Remember, in order to have self-control, kids need the ability to regulate their stress (and they do have stress) and they learn that from your modeling and your teaching. Keep in mind our teacher Aaron Weintraub’s suggestion about creating a calming phrase. Mine is often, “I’ve got this.” (No I don’t always believe it, but regular use of that phrase changes how I experience the world and takes my brain back from the brink of that fight-flight-or-freeze place it likes to go!)

Keep in mind that more than anything children want your attention and to feel a positive connection with you. Notice what you are focusing on and what kind of attention you are giving your kids right now. Notice any tendency toward perfectionism. Transitions can be stressful or overwhelming. Stay connected to yourself, your support system and your children in positive ways. That’s what counts the most.

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