You made it through day one of cute outfits, school supplies, and back to school pictures. Now the reality of the season hits you in full force: parent-teacher nights, bagged lunches, extracurricular activities galore! How can it be that just last week you were wiping the sand from your summer flip flops? It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as a parent, and your kids might also be experiencing huge spikes in their levels of anxiety. Remember these tips to make the transition smoother for the entire family.
It is important to introduce healthy sleep patterns and keep those patterns throughout the entire week. During the summer our kids might have gotten used to late nights and sleeping in, and it is a shock to their system to suddenly wake up earlier than usual- while it is still dark outside, no less! Remind your kids that going to bed early is not a punishment, but instead it sets the stage for success by improving their attention, memory and general positive attitude the next day.
Arm yourself over the weekend with healthy snacks and easy to assemble lunch options. This will save you a frantic trip to Kroger at 10:00pm on a school night. Take the time each evening (and have your kids help) to prepare lunch, book bags and next day’s clothes. This will save you time and energy in the morning to deal with those frantic searches for favorite hair bands, glasses and missing shoes.
With all the apps and reminders on our electronic devices, you might think the old magnetic white board has outgrown its purpose. Don’t underestimate the power of having a constant visual reminder somewhere in the house of all family members’ different commitments and To Do’s. It gives your child a sense of ownership to make “add ons” to their schedule themselves and lessens your load by giving them ownership to fill their own water bottle or find their mud clogged cleats in the garage before practice.
Avalanche of change
Our kids are having to adjust to new schools, classes, teachers and schoolwork. Old friendships might have ended, new ones are forming, and our kids must constantly negotiate their ever-changing environment to find what makes them feel stable and safe. This can spike a child’s anxiety levels and increase feelings of loneliness and isolation. Switch off your device and take the time to listen to your child. Our own anxiety and need for them to be “ok” can make us want to jump in too quick and fix it, or get angry and impatient if they continuously come back from school being “overly emotional” and complaining. Take a deep breath and know this: You being there to listen in that moment makes it feel as if you are sharing the load. Ask them what they need. Sometimes your child needs you to brainstorm with them and find a couple of solutions, but most often you are their sounding board and all they need is a “I can see this is hard for you” or a hug. And yes, even those stubborn middle schoolers still need a comforting touch.
It might be tempting to say yes to ballet, soccer, volleyball and cheer at the same time, and to never miss a party invitation. Our own need to please others and say yes to everything might lead to overloaded schedules, worn out kids, and unnecessary resentment. Be honest with yourself and your children as to what is truly do-able and commit to things that make sense and contribute to health, happiness, and balance. Sometimes this means committing to say NO.
And finally, there is help out there! Sharing your thoughts and feelings with other parents, your partner or a mental health professional might just put things into perspective. Take care of yourself. Sit down and enjoy that cup of coffee and be in the moment. You’ve got this!
Ingrid Krynauw, M.A.
Psychotherapist, Hello Mental Health
Supervised by Dr. Bailey Bryant OH Lic #7373
This publication is designed to provide general information prepared by a professional in regard to the subject matter covered. It is not intended to provide psychological or clinical advice. Although prepared by a professional, this publication should not be utilized as a substitute for professional service in specific situations. If mental health advice or other expert assistance is required, the service of a professional should be sought.