Did you hear about the mother who went in to wake up her son on the first day of school?'Wake up, son. It's time to go to school'
'But why, Mom? I don't want to go.'
'Give me two reasons why you don't want to go.'
'Well, the kids hate me for one, and the teachers hate me, too!'
'Oh, that's no reason not to go to school. Come on now and get ready.'
'Give me two reasons why I should go to school.'
'Well, for one, you're 52 years old. And for another, you're the Principal!'
Back-to-school time can be scary for everyone. We're in count down mode over here. When I ask my kids how they feel about starting back I get varying answers: dread over alarm clocks, excitement to see friends, anxious about new teachers and homework. Sound familiar? Parents can help their child prepare well emotionally for this mixed bag of feelings. Here are some thoughts to consider...
Acknowledge Emotions - Change in routine can be hard on kids (and adults!). If your child had difficulties last year, the start of a new year can be particularly stressful. Whatever your child's emotions, they need to be validated. Kids, even teens, aren't always able to articulate their feelings of stress. You may notice a change in appetite, mood or sleep patterns. Keep your eyes open for signs of tension. Listening to your child, asking questions, empathizing with their feelings and reassuring them their future is not defined by their past can help ease your child's anxiety.
Reduce Unknowns - Have you ever played the 'what if' game? Many children play this at back-to-school time. Here's how it goes - you ask yourself terrifying questions until your stomach is in knots. Fun, right? Questions like, "What if I can't find my classroom?" "What if I can't get my locker open?" "What if I don't like my teacher?" While you can't wipe out all the what if's, you can reduce them by going to Meet the Teacher Night, walking your child through their schedule, letting him practice his locker combination over and over and over again. One thing I did when my oldest started middle school was help her arrange a lunch plan with friends. She talked to two or three friends ahead of time. They arranged a specific spot to meet so they could sit together. This was a huge stress reliever for the first day.
Create Calm - Kids feed off of our emotions. If we're stressed it stresses them. If we're calm it helps them feel calm. I hate to break it to you but we need to lead by example. We can teach them how to productively handle stress by modeling it in our own lives. Think of a few ways you can create an atmosphere of refuge and peace in your home especially for these first few days. Pray with your child, encourage them and demonstrate your confidence that they can handle the new challenges that lie ahead.
With your help, your child can greet the new year with confidence even if he's the principal.