Ya’ll. It’s back to school time and maybe this year we can all decide we’re not going to freak out.
As summer winds down, we usually start to notice clients have a shift in energy around family relationships and transitions. Its a new school year! New teachers, new faces and new classrooms. Getting back to school and starting that new fall routine can be stressful, for kids and parents alike.
Back to School Stress: You’re Not Alone
Summer brings looser schedules, family trips, camps of all kinds, later bedtimes and more ice cream— all of which can be fun, relaxing and hectic all at the same time. Fall brings seasonal changes, earlier bedtimes, new subjects and more homework than last year. It also means potential anxiety for parents— worrying about how our children will adjust in the first weeks of school. Its no wonder this time of year can be a challenge for everyone in the family!
The good news is you are doing the best you can. The better news is you're not alone. We can all do something different to our daily routine to make life easier, but its not always simple figuring out what to change. Especially when you're in the thick of a transition.
How to Make Back to School Simple Again
- Talk about it - when was the last time you talked with your child, really with them? When the day gets busy with extra curricular activities, chores and homework it’s easy to focus on the day’s lists. Is your homework done? Do you like your teacher? Did you take out the trash? Try asking questions that encourage your kids to actually tell you more than the dreaded one-word answer. Tell me more about your day. What was the best part of your day? What was the most challenging? Is there anything I can help you with?
Take it slow, day by day - Change doesn't happen over night and neither does adjusting to a new school environment or home routine. If someone doesn’t cooperate with the new divvied up chore list, roll with it and try again the next day.
Create new family traditions, or stick with the old ones, just do something- Consistency and predictability are key here. Is Wednesday night make your own pizza night at your house? Great! Your children and spouse will know they have guaranteed family time. When you build in consistent routine time together it allows your children more autonomy to decide when or if they need to talk to you about something. They might wait to bring up a school issue until pizza night, or if its something more pressing they’ll bring it up sooner. Either way, guaranteed quality time creates safety and comfort for your family.
Build in time together that doesn’t focus on school - easier said than done. Especially given multiple children and working parents. Everyone needs one on one time with family members. Parents and children and spouses. Kiddos have enough pressure from teachers and the school system about their grades and behaviors, sometimes they need to focus on something else. Spending one on one time together is great way to let them do that. For busy working parents, even a small amount of time helps. If both parents help at bedtime, then parents can trade off each night doing something pleasurable while the other plays the task manager role. If you’re a single parent and can’t depend on support, make five minutes an evening your goal. Even a little bit makes a strong impact.
Get a family calendar - ugh, organization. It helps though. A calendar of schedules, trips planned and household duties supports the predictability in the new family routine. Maybe your calendar includes consequences for certain behaviors. If it’s written out for everyone to see, there’s no question about what consequences result from specific behaviors. In my work with teens, I find this really helpful. They can know, for sure, if they chose to do xyz behavior or skip school, their grades start to fall, insert your own idea of problematic behaviors— the consequences are clear. The cell phone is taken away, tv time is cut in half, they are grounded from social activities for x amount of weeks. You get the picture.
Consistency Makes Back to School Simple
Laying the ground rules creates consistency and will likely relieve some of the parental anxiety that is associated with household daily tasks and consequences. Deciding what is best for your family and illustrating those values and rules through a family calendar or giant poster gives you a baseline for navigating daily family life. And theres no pressure if you stray from that baseline, but at least you always have a place to come back to.
If these ideas don't seem to fit for your or your family, then I urge to think about your own time in school and how you managed transitions as a child or young adult. What do you wish your family would have done differently? What did you do well? How can you translate those experiences into your family life today?
Practice never makes perfect, but practice does make change. So give yourself break and pat yourself on the back, you're doing a good job.