October 11, 2009

Starting the School Year – Life in Transition

Starting the School Year – Life in Transition

We’ve all experienced it – the abrupt transition from the leisurely pace of late August, with few demands on students to the hectic life of early September mornings, homework load and after-school sports and activities.

Suddenly, students are getting less sleep, have less time to unwind and are being told by teachers all the negative consequences of slacking off. Parents feel the need to impress upon their children the importance of beginning the year on a good note and the value of creating a positive impression with teachers. We feel responsible for making sure that our children establish good work habits at home from the start.

Surprise! Children begin to exhibit behaviors characteristic of their younger selves. Parents’ frustration erupts. A 7 year-old wants to sleep in her parents’ bed. A 15 year-old has meltdowns when returning from school.

As parents, we may feel compelled to jump onto the hamster wheel and become another force for the abrupt change in rhythm. Whether it is during this transition or the next, there are a few things that are worth remembering:

No matter how old our kids are, home serves as a refuge. Let your child know that you understand how hard it is to shift into school mode. Be willing to listen to challenges and complaints without trying to fix or correct your child’s perceptions. Instead, if need be, offer them possibilities for alternatives or solutions. Ask them to keep an open mind and listen to your input. If they are older, make it clear that the decisions are theirs.

Ask them about their goals for the school year and talk about how you can support their reaching those goals. Otherwise, the unfinished homework becomes more the parents’ concern than the child’s. As they mature, help them advocate for themselves when appropriate.

Remember that, in the big picture, your relationship is more important than the particular issue at hand. Only in the context of a positive relationship can we continue to have an impact and influence our children’s views and behavior. If most of our input feels critical to them, they will tune it out no matter how much wisdom it contains. They can’t hear us if they aren’t listening.

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1 comment:

  1. Excellent advice! It's a good reminder for me to focus on the quality of my relationship with my daughter and not just on all that has to get done.