It’s that time of year again… the dreaded Back to School Blitz.
For some, it can be a time of excitement, sending care-free children off to see their friends and share stories about vacations and activities from the summer. But for many, this time of year brings chaos, exhaustion, and often a ton of anxiety or other behavior problems.
No matter your child’s age, they may be experiencing a host of difficulties with the everyday tasks and struggles of getting back into the groove, and you may even be getting the worst of it at home.
In this blog post, we will explore a few reasons that your kids might be struggling AND a few tips to help you get prepared to tackle these challenging behaviors head on and parent like a champ through this difficult transition.
For the Littles:
There are a ton of reasons that younger kids may be acting out or having difficulties with heading back into the classroom.
There are many unknowns when kids return to school each year.
Most of the time, they don’t have the same group of friends in their classrooms, they have new teachers that they have never met, and something as simple as no longer having a nap or a designated snack time could be causing stress for younger children.
Think about walking into your job one day and having a brand new boss who gives you a different job description, AND says you won’t get to take a lunch at your normal time, AND they’ve moved your only work friend to the corporate office downtown.
Pretty anxiety provoking, right? Even as an adult, that would take some time to get used to, and it’s no different for your children when trying to adjust to their new environment and routine each year.
For the Biggers:
For older children and teens, there are just as many fears and stressors when heading back into the gauntlet that is middle through high school.
Do you remember feeling self-conscious because of body changes, not fitting in, and just being generally awkward (because it comes with the territory of being alive between the ages of 12 and 19)??
Because, let me tell you, I do! And for today’s teenagers with the prominence of social media (that’s a post for another day), it has only gotten worse.
So, maybe your teenager is a little moodier because they are worried they are not going to fit in, or perhaps there is an issue with bullying. Also, your kids have gone from a fairly lax summer schedule back into a rigid daily routine.
They absorb tons of information per day while balancing the pressure of making friendships, fitting in, and saying/doing the right thing ALL of the time, and it’s EXHAUSTING.
By the end of the day, my guess is that your child is WORN OUT and maybe they aren’t handling it all that well.
What can you do?
So, your kids are anxious, frustrated, exhausted, moody, and it’s kind of a big ol’ hot mess around your house in the mornings or right after school, am I right
If any of this sounds like you or your kiddos, I have a few easy tips that you can begin to utilize right away to help tame the difficult behaviors you may be facing
- PREPARE: Prep everything you possibly can ahead of time. It will take a little bit of effort on the front end, but it will save you so much time in the mornings as you are trying to squeak out the door under the deadline to get everyone to school/work on time.Set out choices of clothing, shoes, prepare lunches and snacks, and even dinner for the next day if you have the time/resources. Also while you’re prepping THINGS, make sure to prep your kiddos for the next day’s events or the changes that you know are coming. Kids like to feel in control and thrive when they are prepared for what’s coming next, so arming them with information can give them the confidence they need to be able to handle the unknowns.
- ROUTINE: I can’t say this enough. Keeping a consistent, predictable routine is invaluable when dealing with the strain of back to school.Establish a sequence of events each morning/night that works for you and your family and stick with it. This will cut down on a ton of power struggles, anxieties, and melt-downs as, again, kids thrive and feel more in control when they know what’s coming next. Prepare them in advance when the routine is going to change (see the endless number of ball games, conferences, and events that comes with beginning of school), and let them know what that means for them and what their expectations will be.
- REST. Try to squeeze as much extra rest time as possible. Heading back to school can be very mentally taxing for kids of all ages, as their brains are working overtime to absorb and process new information. Bump up bedtime, cut out electronics before bed, and have a nightly relaxation routine in place to help promote better sleep. Another consideration with rest, giving your child a “brain break” after school to reduce the cognitive load and allow for some activity before jumping straight into homework. Addressing and relieving the burnout at the end of the day may cut down on some of the arguments and meltdowns related to homework refusal.
- FEED THE BEAST: During the summer months, your child probably had access to all the snackies they wanted on a pretty flexible schedule. Now that they are back to school and operating on a rigid routine and may not have access to the same types and quantities of food they are used to. And again, their bodies are incredibly taxed at the end of the day, and most kids are VORACIOUS by the time they get off the bus or jump in your car after last period. Have some snacks ready to go when your child gets home, and even in the car if you pick your kids up from school. If snack are allowed at your child’s school/on the bus, pack some extra in your child’s bag so they can munch as needed to prevent the dreaded “hangries”. A fed baby is a happy baby.
- LOVE THEM THROUGH IT: Lastly, it’s important to remember that no matter your child’s age, going back to school is a big change for them and comes with a host of anxiety, stress, and difficulties that may be hard for them to express or deal with in a healthy way. Your child may need a little more love, understanding, and support as they work hard to navigate their ever changing worlds. Be kind and remember that all new beginnings are hard, even for adults, and they are doing the best they can with the tools they have. If things get too out of control and you’ve implemented these small changes and tips and are just not seeing improvement or a light at the end of the tunnel, don’t be afraid to reach out. Find a community, connect with other parents, find a support group, or reach out to a mental health professional if you feel like you or your child needs assistance.
From one parent to another, good luck