This time of year is rough for parents whose kids have a hard time with school. My Facebook newsfeed is flooded with articles about managing the transition back to school, tales of how everyone’s kids seem to just run off the bus excited to tell their parents about how great their school day was, stories of crying moms when their kids walked right into the classroom confidently without looking back. The overwhelming advice seems to be “Don’t stress, parents! It’s harder on you than it is on them!”
Except, not always.
My older son is having another bumpy start to the school year. I cannot relate what he’s going through at all. For me, the first day of school was like Christmas. I loved it, and I counted down the days until I was back in the classroom. (Sidetone: this is likely why I became a teacher!) But he dreads it. He’s happy at home, playing in his backyard. He likes making his own schedule and doing his own thing. School is something he merely tolerates. His kindergarten start was rocky, and starting first grade has been similar, though not quite as tough. He seems to have accepted that there’s not much he can do about it; school isn’t optional. However, it’s really hard to see him struggle with it.
If you’re in the same boat and facing a rough start to the school year, here are some tips that have helped us. Hang in there, parents. Back to school can be a hard time of year, and if you’re finding this to be true, know that you aren’t alone!
*Have consistent routines. This may seem obvious, but when life is in upheaval with a new school or even a new class, keep everything else in life as safe and predictable as possible. Hold off on starting new after school activities, and have a clear flow to your life at home.
*Communicate with school. Let your child’s teacher know that things have been tough via an email or phone call. Your child may be holding it together at school and falling apart just when at home, or your child may not be telling you about something that upset him or her at school. Communicate.
*Stay out of school yourself! As much as you may desperately want to see how your child is doing, resist the urge to show up for lunch with him or her and don’t sign up to volunteer in the classroom just yet. Let your child adjust to his or her new situation without constantly wondering if you’ll make an appearance, then feel free to volunteer (if that’s your thing!) after the adjustment period is over.
*Do not fear the school psychologist! Your school psychologist is there to help children at school! If your child needs help adjusting to school, do not be afraid to pick up the phone and have a chat with your friendly school psych. They are a goldmine of support!
*Resist the urge to bombard your child with questions about his or her day right after school. Though you may want to hear the details of how the day went (especially if days have been hard), try to give your child time to decompress before asking too many questions.
*Keep home time “boring”. This isn’t the time to break out the awesome weekend trips to Six Flags. Keep weekends and after school time low-key and well, dull. At least in the short term, let school be the most exciting thing that happens. Your child won’t feel like they’re missing out on the action if they know everyone in your house is also at work or school!
*Take it one day at a time. There are hard days; that doesn’t mean you’ve totally failed. There are easy days; that doesn’t always mean everything is “fixed”. Each day is a new start.