Parents urged to begin children's transition to school
Provided by Business Psychology Associates
For other children, school is filled with disappointments and the approaching season comes entirely too soon. In any case, parents are wise to begin planning the transition well in advance of the first day of school.
For small children preparation includes adjusting their internal clocks. A couple of weeks before school, start moving bedtimes up until it is at the regular time you want for school nights, and begin rustling them out of bed earlier.
Strictly enforcing this schedule will establish the kind of discipline that will carry over to all of their school activities. Buying school supplies and clothes in advance helps to generate excitement about the coming experience, and an early visit to the school can reduce anxiety for both children and parents, especially if the child is not attending the same school they went to the previous year. Back-to-school time is also a good opportunity to reinforce lessons about staying away from strangers. Because children may have difficulty responding appropriately to adults, teaching children through role-playing can help commit to memory useful, rapid responses when reacting to strangers.
It may also be helpful to role-play situations in which children may want to actively seek out adults’ help. In June 2005, a Utah boy went missing for four days during a camping trip; because his parents had told him unequivocally to avoid “strangers,” the boy actually hid from search parties. Fortunately, although this delayed his rescue, the boy was ultimately found unharmed.
Middle school students present different challenges. Everything, it seems, becomes magnified into a potential social crisis as children learn about their changing roles in the complex, anxiety-inducing tumult of early adolescent society. Clothes and personal appearance become crucial to adolescents as they begin discovering the opposite sex. Parents may find themselves becoming less concerned about getting kids to school than how to get them to come back home. This is also the age when parents must open sometimes challenging dialogues concerning drugs and sex. They also must manage their own schedules to maintain a reasonable level of after-school supervision.
High school often requires less intense management, as parents remain vigilant but willing to allow well-adjusted teens to make more of their own decisions. As they allow their teens more autonomy and mobility, parents’ concerns may shift from ferrying the kids to soccer practice and recitals to ensuring that the kids become able to behave safely and responsibly on their own. As always, the key is balance.
Just as we wouldn’t think of letting a teen go anywhere and do anything they want with no supervision at all, we probably wouldn’t want to overreact by trying to monitor the teen’s every waking moment. Not that there isn’t a market ready to play to parental anxieties over their teens’ whereabouts—an expanding number of companies have been doing a brisk business in Global Positioning Satellite gadgets that can be installed in cell phones or cars, with the implied promise that a high-tech leash is needed to keep track of potentially-wayward teens. Attractive though such devices might seem, a well-established bond of trust and respect between parents and teens will probably have better results.
All ages present parents with any number of conflicts and stresses, and anything that can reduce stress and add order is an asset. Management begins with organization. In mental health, an organized brain is a healthy one, and a disorganized one is less well. Managing time and schedules while children attend school is not an easy task.
Shopping trips, school activities and covering supervision hours can strain working schedules and overload parents’ coping styles. The single best strategy to avoid becoming overwhelmed is to start early by preparing children for school. The next tactic is to be cautious against over-committing yourself or your child. It is healthy for children to be active, but sometimes too much activity becomes chaotic. Set schedules of coming and going and strive to stay with them. Keeping routines and patterns, from meals to study times, will greatly enhance a sense of organization and stability. Initially establishing structure may seem difficult, but it will pay off.
For additional information or assistance, please contact Business Psychology Associates, Idaho’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider or consult a mental health professional