I just love that commercial for back to school supplies that comes on this time of year where the parents are skipping through the store and the kids look like they’re about to be sick. I can’t help but laugh out loud every time I see it. No doubt because I too am filled with excitment when I think about returning to the structure of the school schedule. No more shuttling kids back and forth from camp or the various playdates that have to be carefully orchestrated to fill up the last days of summer when there’s no more camp and working parents are left scrambling.
For most of us school begins this week or next and so too begins earlier bed times, giving us an opportunity to get re-aquainted with our spouses or to have a little time to ourselves again. I encourage all parents to enjoy this short lived period before the newness wears off and you’re once again at school twice a week for orientations and monitoring homework every night.
I would also remind parents that many children find returning to school, especially a new school, a very daunting experience. The academic and social pressures that children face today are very real. While there have always been bullies and peer pressure, those challenges have never been compounded by the media and technology in the form of cell phones, the internet, twitter, myspace etc. as they are today. The barrage of information that is pushed at our youth makes the notion of raising “well adjusted” children no small task. However, a tip that may help the process along is to place your social and academic expectations of your children in the wider context of their social and educational experience. That will require that you know who their friends are, that you check in with their teachers regularly and that you pay attention to their extra curricular activities and whether or not they have too many of them! When you have a true understanding of your child’s experience then you can set appropriate expectations and boundaries that will help you both in your adjustment process.
The “back to school” period is more than buying school supplies and new clothes. It’s also an opportunity to check in with your children, to attune yourself to their goals as well as their fears about the upcoming year. Doing so will not only boost their confidence about what their upcoming school year will bring, but it may also boost their confidence about their relationship with you!