Back To School!

It’s that time again. The time every parent dreads or awaits with glee. Packing up backpacks, lunches, and getting up earlier to get kids on the bus on time. It can be hard to get back in the groove after a few months of being out of school. While I haven’t done it with my own child yet, I have when my three stepdaughters all lived here…middle school and high school. That week before school began AND the first actual week of school were high stress times. There was more irritability and nervousness, but also excitement and anticipation in seeing friends again. I noticed a bit more fighting than usual but also times when the girls bonded together in whispers about things that would be going on again once school was in.

Your feelings and mood related to BACK TO SCHOOL all depend on the way you look at it. There are positives and negatives to everything and school is no exception. We’re not going to stick our heads in the sand and only think or talk about the good things. We ARE going to acknowledge that having to get up earlier sucks and those projects remembered at 10pm the night before drive us mad, while focusing more on what school does for our children. They learn. Not only subjects taught in school, but important and essential social lessons such as coping with negative or difficult people, being kind to others, large group dynamics (this one is quite helpful later in workplace politics). School has a place in our society that helps prepare our children for real life later, and a good bit of what they learn is due to exposure to groups. As a child therapist, I was surprised at the limited social skills of some of the children I met. Exposure to too much electronic stimulation and too little interpersonal interaction was often the culprit, in addition to limited parental interventions. School forces these children into social situations in which they must cope. They learn about the good and bad sides of people and also begin development of their own value system. I am 40, but I can remember meeting other kids when I was young and thinking “I wish I could be like that,” or conversely, “I’m never going to act that way.” It was my tendency to notice behaviors and wonder about the person’s thoughts and feelings behind them. 25 years and a good bit of education in child development later, and I can usually tell you what those thoughts and feelings are, as well as how we can change them if we choose.

So when it comes to all of those BACK TO SCHOOL woes, consider all of the good times and learning experiences your child will be exposed to in their school environment. The experiences will not always be positive but they ARE learning opportunities that can affect future relationships and careers! For example, if you worry your child will come home and tell you another child was mean to them, or they were mean to another child, put your initial thoughts and feelings aside and use the experience to help your child learn and cope now, while they are young. Trust me, they will benefit so much from it later.

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