Stores are advertising back-to-school supplies and clothes. Argh! The first day of school is just around the corner. The summer weather persists for another month or two, but the ‘lazy’ days of summer must come to an end. And so the cycle of summer-to-school begins again.
Are you ready for the kids to go back to school? Are they ready? If you’re like my family, we had mixed reviews about the end of summer and the inevitable return to school. We loved the fresh air and sunshine, earning money at a summer job, and taking a family vacation. After a while, though, we all longed for a little more, or different, structure and predictability.
Most kids are looking forward to being with their friends from school. Some relish the challenge of learning and achieving in the classroom. (I hope you have one of those kids!) Others need the structure and goal-oriented nature of school and extra-curricular activities.
How do you make the transition back to school easier on all of you?
1. Get excited about the shopping AND establish some guidelines. Going from store to store to store is not only exhausting, it’s a recipe for overwhelm and indecision. Make clear before you head out: a. what’s on your shopping list. b. what your budget is. c. how many stores you will go to.
Your time, money and patience are in limited supply. That’s reality. If your maximum number of stores is three, make sure your kids understand that by the time you get to the third store, a decision is expected, or the items are not purchased. It’s a great opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of what they need and want, to examine quality and quantity, and how to spend within their means (well, your means, if you’re paying for it).
If you shop online, these guidelines can apply. I still encourage you to build in a little shopping expedition. There’s a different energy to getting out of the house, and to using all your senses in the shopping experience.
In the end, the biggest piece of this is about setting expectations before you go. You can avoid a lot of aggravation with a little bit of preparation.
2. Buy something special for the first day. Even high-schoolers will appreciate this. Back in the days when we had far less, that new pair of shoes was a big deal. Most of you can provide these things all year long, so finding something special may take some thought. It doesn’t need to be big, like a smart phone or other expensive item. It could be an accessory that wasn’t part of the original need-to-have list, a gift certificate, a manicure, or something inspiring to hang in their locker.
3. Ease back into routines. Of course the first one that comes to mind is sleep and the dreaded alarm clock. Take the remaining days or weeks to gradually change bedtimes and waking-up times. What other routines can you begin to add back?
4. Allow them to express any anxiety. Will I make the grades? Will I keep all my friends? What about new teachers? How do I fit in? Even if they have a good track record in these areas, they are likely feeling stressed about it and should be encouraged to express it. Above all, do not discount what they are feeling! They’re entitled to their feelings, whether you agree with them or not. This could be the time to talk (a conversation, not a lecture) about coping with stress. Let them know that there’s normal stress and stress overload, and you’re going to check in with them if you see signs of them moving into overload. They may protest, but they’ll also be relieved to know you have their back.
5. Share your own stories about school. It wasn’t always fun. Your kids can appreciate the difficulties of school – both work and relationships – and be inspired by how you handled it. Growing up is confusing, and you are proof that you can live through these baffling times. Whether you liked learning or not, in hindsight you know it was (mostly) useful. And to quote the late Robin Williams, “Nothing I learned was wasted.”
Fern Weis is a Parent Coach and Family Recovery Life Coach. She works with parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, from the homework wars to addiction recovery, and all points in between. Fern helps parents release guilt, end enabling, and confidently prepare their children to thrive and be successful through life's challenges. FernWeis.com | 201-747-9642