The carefree, unstructured summer days are nearly gone, and school is just around the corner. As families prepare to transition from leisure-time activities to the regimented school year schedule, many parents prepare for the worst. Adults and children alike often feel stress and anxiety at back-to-school time. But a good way to alleviate problems is to get your family into a comfortable schedule, prepare yourself and your children for school, and take time to be together as a family before that first day arrives.
Dr. Michael Dell, LCSW, a Denver-based licensed clinical and school social worker, says families who prepare children for the transition can help ease stress for the whole family. "Establishing some basic rules ahead of time is by far the best stress relief around," points out Dr. Dell. "Before school starts, sit down with your child(ren) and go over expectations for morning and evening routines, and homework. Allow your child some input on the details and specifics, but keep the ground rules clear—[such as] getting up for and [making it to] school on time, completing homework, and going to bed on time," he adds.
Preparing for School
"The key is to focus on daily obstacles with limits that can be enforced on a daily basis," explains Dr. Dell. " As an example, take a look at how your children get ready in the morning. Do they listen when you call them to the breakfast table? Do they understand the family schedule? If so, a positive morning routine and getting to school on time could earn television time, an after-school snack, or another reward later that day.
Consider your child's bedtime routine, too. Is he or she good about getting to bed on time without a fuss? If your child understands and abides by bedtime routines, consider giving him the well-earned "treat" of staying up a half hour or hour later on weekends. "Now is a golden opportunity to give your children all the things they have been asking for—provided they can be responsible and earn it for themselves," Dr. Dell suggests.
According to Stacy DeBroff, author of The Mom Book Goes to School, preparing your child for what is ahead by modifying bedtime routines before the school year starts is another good strategy. "Parents make the transition from summer to school bedtimes by starting the kids going to bed fifteen minutes earlier each night about two weeks before school, with no more staying up until ten or eleven o'clock at night," advises DeBroff.
Simply talking with your child about the impending school year can also ease tensions and concerns. "If possible, get your child to open up about his expectations for school. Talk with him about specific worries he has for the upcoming year," DeBroff says.