Where did summer go?!
How am I already shopping for school supplies and shuttling kids to pre-season workouts?
When did they start selling Pumpkin Spice and Halloween candy in August???
Let’s back up. I want to apologize and say a huge thank you for being understanding while I took a hiatus from blogging. Things have been super hectic over the past 6 months with getting a therapy practice up and running at full speed. There has been a very positive response to the work we’ve been doing at Parenting & Family Solutions, so we are amazingly thankful to everyone for that and hope that we can help so many more people in the years to come.
That’s right folks! August is here. Which means the back to school supply lists, bus route letters and school physicals are back again.
Some of you have been counting down the days till your lil angels go back to school and you get to enjoy your morning coffee in relative peace. Some of you are dreading jumping back into the stress and pressure of school drama and grades. Others of you may be entering into this for the first time and are overwhelmed with emotion.
Here are a few tips that will help the transition back to school go as well as possible:
1. Make a plan!
I’m a huge proponent of “Fail to plan, Plan to fail”. Think about what you want the start of school to look like, the time your child needs to be at the bus stop or waking up, what you want the meals to look like in that first week, what time curfew will be, does your child need a refill on their medication, etc.
Talk it over with your family and especially your child/children and find out what their expectations are. Discuss what your expectations are and possible pitfalls you can foresee. The biggest pitfall families fall victim to are not planning at all and leaving everything to chance and maintaining consistency across the school year.
2. Start now
As I write this it’s August 3rd. You should be starting the family discussions and starting to get your kids nights and days back to right-side-up. If you think that the week before school or the morning of the first day, you’re going to throw all these expectations and logistics together and that you and your family will face them with stability and emotional maturity, you’re kidding yourself. Good luck and God speed!
If your child had an IEP (Individual Education Program) during the previous year and you want to adjust that or you are interested in your child being assessed for services this year, then you should reach out to your school asap. Some schools will get you scheduled and meet with you to go over your concerns, whereas others may have you wait until the school year has already begun. But find out either way. You don’t want it to be like a Ticketmaster experience from the 80s or 90s where you had no idea you should have already been in line.
Get back to paying attention to what your kids eat. A lot of sins get covered up under the guise of, “Meh. It’s summer”. For months now your kids may have been running on Ice Pops, Pop Rocks and whatever snacks they can wrestle away from their siblings. Think about any of the diets you may have tried as an adult. There is typically a detox period where you are craving the stuff you cut out, are moody and want to tear peoples heads off. Imagine that…in your child…while they’re trying to learn and follow the rules of the school. Start getting them back into more regular mealtimes, set meals (possibly with a scheduled Taco Tuesday – everybody loves tacos!) and healthier options. Give their brains the right kind of fuel to make learning easier.
Snack/Lunch – Not everybody has the means to pay for the brand name, super-popular snacks by the truckload. But with taking a look at your budget and what some healthy options are, you can plan out their lunches and/or snacks ahead of time to help cut down on chemicals and dyes that may contribute to emotional disregulation or impulsivity.
Plan out dialing back their curfew, bedtimes and mornings at least 2 weeks prior to the start of school. Figure out the appropriate amount of sleep for your child, factor in the time they have to leave your house for the bus/walk/carpool. Keep in mind their morning routine and the expectations you have for the things they will be responsible for. This is your opportunity to teach your child about planning and time management. Help them (and yourselves!) by building time in for any mishaps. Starting with their current “bedtime”, work to roll back their bedtime by 15-20 minutes every couple of nights until you reach the desired time. Keep in mind you want at least a week of sleep at the desired bedtime before the first day of school.
A few caveats about some of the topics in this section:
Electronics – The growing prevalence of technology in our children’s lives has led to poor boundaries around good sleep hygiene. Removing technological devices from a child’s bedroom and setting boundaries around screen time are a huge piece of that. Here is an article from the Sleep Foundation regarding electronics at bedtime.
Expectations – So often as parents we have expectations that are a little too high for our kids. The younger the child, the more they need us to come alongside them and help them to learn and develop in order to meet the expectations for independence that we have. This is particularly true in the next section on medication.
For those of you who have kids who take medication, whether that’s an epi-pen or a mood stabilizer, it’s crucial to make sure that their prescription is up to date and that they aren’t going to run out. Try to schedule a med-check appointment prior to your child going back to school in case things need to be tweaked. Most medications don’t allow for taking breaks and not taking the med on a regular basis; however, with ADHD meds this is often a common practice during the summer months. I highly recommend working closely with your prescribing physician before deciding that for your child! If your child has taken a break from their medication they should begin taking their meds 1-2 weeks prior to the first day of school (4-6 weeks for an anti-anxiety or anti-depressant) so that the half-life builds up and they reach peak effectiveness when school arrives.
Whether you pick out your child’s clothing or you allow them to pick out their own ensemble of rain boots, a black tutu and the top half of their Spider-Man Halloween costume. Try to select the clothes the night before. Giving your child as much of a say in the process will help them feel like they have an element of control over things. Picking a place in their room to lay the clothes out and making it the same place so that it becomes muscle memory will help with the structure and routine.
Similar to their clothing, there should be a place to put the backpack and a routine for checking it and organizing it so that they learn to properly prepare for their day and how to get out the door without forgetting necessary items for said day.
I often recommend a weekly family meeting and a family notebook for family members to write down discussion topics as a sort of meeting agenda. They can be free to bring up topics they are frustrated with, rules they want to discuss, anything that may be important to them. This helps everyone in the family to stay on the same page regarding upcoming events, which becomes crucial if you have active teens involved in multiple things. It helps children to know what to expect and feel as though they have some say in things.