As July comes to a close, summer’s end looms just a few weeks away. For many schools, the fall semester begins in mid- late August which means there are only a few weeks left to enjoy a relaxed schedule, play dates, camp, family vacations, later bed times, and of course NO HOMEWORK. Summer helps to reset our coping and stress thresholds in addition to giving kids and adults respite from academic, developmental, and social hurdles that occur during the school year. It’s no surprise that as the 60+ days of summer begins to dwindle down, melancholy and even a little dread may begin to surface not only for your kids but also for you. This is not unusual and should not be considered a problem, rather a sign that you and your child or teen are beginning to think about and prepare for the approaching school year. The prospect of earlier bed/wake times; managing the completing needs and schedules of everyone in the family; and expectations regarding academic, behavioral, emotional functioning can add a touch more stress to the weeks preceding and following schools commencement.
Here’s What you Can Do:
1. Establish a structure for the transition back to school which may include an adjusted sleep schedule to help them get used to earlier wake up times. The best way to do this is gradually set an earlier bedtime and wake up time a week before the first day of school.
2. New school supplies as well as new school clothes usually help to add some excitement about returning to school. New clothes can provide a confidence booster on that first day back while school supplies can help to bolster organizational skills and assuage feelings of overwhelm due to a lack of study structure.
3. For some students, incentivizing school success can help motivate and encourage stronger effort. Breaking time and goals down to weeks as opposed to semesters can help to reduce the common trend of; starting the semester strong with good intentions and a positive attitude; losing momentum during the middle of the semester as fatigue starts to set in; playing catch up due to a slip in grades as finals approach. Consider setting and rewarding goal achievement based on progress reports which are 5 weeks apart vs. semesters which are 4+ months apart.
4. Explore sources of stress and anxiety associated with school and what can be done to mitigate those feelings. Social stress, a demanding academic class or schedule, and balancing academics with sports or extracurricular activities can be discussed and problem solved. Offering solutions ahead of time can help to address any struggles at their inception.
5. Talk about what they need from you and the best way you can support them. Encourage open and honest communication about what is working for them and what is not. Some teens enjoy and appreciate when their parents take an active interest in their studies while others prefer to come to their parents when a problem arises. There is no right or wrong approach here unless you’re teen wants a “hands off” policy from you and they are not meeting expectations. Their functioning should dictate the need for intervention or lack thereof.
6. Help to establish a balanced schedule to avoid over-scheduling and burnout or under-scheduling and lethargy. Some of our teens can develop “rejection fear” (the fear of not getting into their chosen college) which can lead them to taking on too much. Some however take a “less is more” rationalization and need to take on additional school activities, especially if screen time becomes their default after school endeavor.
7. Don’t forget to take care of you. Self care is vital for parents as their mood can often set the tone for the house. It can be easy to forget about your needs when the needs of your children are presented. You’re routine of Yoga, meditation, running, or other adaptive coping skills should not be neglected. Remember to include peace, stillness, and serenity to your daily routine. This will help regulate your mood, reduce stress, and keep your emotional resources replenished.