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Back to School: Five Challenges Every Parent Faces

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August 19, 2019

Back to School: Five Challenges Every Parent Faces

August has become the traditional month for the public and private schools to re-open for the new school year. And now that most Atlanta area kids are getting up and heading off to school, most parents are dealing with the challenges that this transition period creates.

We want to remind all parents that you are not alone in this battle of wills that can occur between the young students and their parents. Here are a few words of advice from some experts across many disciplines.

1. The Wake Up Challenge

The beginning of the school year is a critical time to get kids adjusted to a consistent sleep schedule. Most children get used to staying up a little later and sleeping in more frequently during the summer months, but once the school year starts, it’s important to move bedtime up and get back into a routine. Inadequate sleep is a frequent problem that worsens as school starts, and it’s a problem that leads to tired kids as well as parents – a very unhealthy combination.

Here is an interesting list of 21 tips for getting stubborn kids out of bed in the morning that might give you a new idea for your sleepy head. One tip that stands out is to ‘Wake them up by singing.”

2. The Morning Routine Challenge

As most clinicians and child therapists would recommend, children perform better if they have structure and routines. But, when school starts, the morning structure is quickly changed and this can be upsetting for kids.

This does not mean you have to turn into a Drill Instructor. But, setting up and maintaining a step-by-step routine can help them to understand what is expected of them… especially in the early hours, when they can be a bit ‘groggy’.

Here is how one parent establishes a morning routine or this montessori-inspired morning routine. And if you have a child with ADHD, these tips for morning and evening routines might help.

3. The Technology Challenge

What child today isn’t ‘addicted’ to technology. Much like a chain smoker, the first words many children say when they wake up is ‘Where’s my phone/iPad/etc.?”

But, we can’t totally eliminate technology from children’s lives. In fact, many schools are issuing technology/laptops to kids at an early age. The key is to find healthy boundaries for tech use by your children -- where they can use it, when they can use it, and for how long. Setting limits will be key.

As many recommend, make the device use an ‘earned right’. In the mornings, that might mean only allowing them to have their device after they have completed all of their morning routines. The remaining time before the bus comes, or you leave to take them to school, becomes their reward time. But, developing this type of habit will take time and probably involve a lot of meltdowns along the way.

4. The Anxiety & Emotional Challenge

As we discussed earlier, children tend to thrive in a more structured environment. Often, too much flexibility and unrecognized environments creates anxiety for children.

This can happen for children that change grades or schools. If that happens, be patient with your child. Help them to slowly build trust in themselves that this new environment is safe. Help them to establish routines and support systems as they are ready.

Learn how to detect anxiety in your child by reading more about it or attending seminars like “Help Me Deal: Teen Anxiety” which is being conducted by the Clinical Services Program of JF&CS of Atlanta.

5. The Dreaded Homework Challenge

Universally dreaded by students and parents, school homework becomes one of the biggest challenges for a parent-school-aged child relationship. It calls upon all of the resources of a parent to help the child develop a life-long habit of learning and studying.

Many of the previously stated tactics help to form a good foundation - setting up routines and limiting tech distractions. Some other recommended tactics include creating an area for homework that is not overly stimulating and distracting, getting involved with the school and teacher so that you know what the strategic goals are of the child’s studies.

Other recommendations include experimenting when is the best time for your child to do homework. It might be best right after they get home. Or it might be better to allow them some play time first in order to burn up the last of the day’s energy. It could be before dinner. Or it could be after dinner.

Survival Skills for Parents

The first survival skill for parents is to remember that all parents go through this same challenging transition at the beginning of every school year. It can be more difficult for single-parents. But, coupled parents can have it rough also, because children can often play one parent off of another. That is why it is very important for parents to be in sync on how they are going to address these challenges. And, if extended family are involved (Grandparents, we’re talking to you), they need to know the plan as well. The strength of the plan is only as strong as the ‘weakest link’.

Within the first month of school, most children learn the new routine and come to accept it as the new norm. When that happens, the family drama about school will start to die down… at least until the holiday breaks.

We hope some of these ideas and tips provide you with some new ways to handle the new school year.

Are your children in their teen years? Plan to join us this Sunday at several Teen Mental Health events.

Click here to check out this upcoming event.