The ABC's of Back to School

A

Allow Time to Adjust
Over the past several months, we have had to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic. For most kids, this was a mixed bag of “Yay I don’t have to go to school,” and “Why can’t I leave my house or see my friends?” Their schedules, routines, and lives were disrupted as significantly or, in some cases, more than most adults! Now their world is about to change all over again as they go back to school. They probably have become accustomed to going to bed later, watching more TV, playing more video games, and video chatting for hours on end. Once school starts, these activities understandably must be limited—but try easing into change rather than asking your kids to go cold turkey. For instance, rather than cutting them off completely from all their screen time, try restricting them to one show a day or 30 minutes of gaming a day the first week. The second week try only three shows all week, and then just one show a week. Kids need time to adjust—like we all do.

Don’t argue or bargain however. Be empathetic—but firm. Put yourself in their shoes. You probably have at least one TV program you’ve followed faithfully and have grown quite attached to—right? If your child has been allowed to watch a program all summer that comes on after their normal bedtime on a school night, They’re naturally going to fuss a little about having to give it up. To help fill the gap, let them listen to some favorite music while going to sleep or read to them for a few minutes. Your goal is to make this a positive time of transition not a prison sentence. If they feel they’re being punished, they’ll develop a negative mindset about school. 

B

Be Enthusiastic
Although they may vehemently deny it, most kids look forward to going back to school. They’re ready to get back to the routine, structure, and predictability. Also, most kids enjoy learning and discovering new things. They may not particularly enjoy the work that’s required, but they do enjoy the process of learning.

Like each new school year, their return to school will be met with a mixture of excitement, apprehension, and anticipation relative to the challenge and the unknowns that lie ahead. They’ll be reaching into new dimensions, exploring new horizons, experiencing new joys, and enduring new pains. As they embark on their journey, be enthusiastic about the value of learning—not just for the sake of acquiring new facts but also for the joy of discovering how to think and reason.
Be enthusiastic about your child as well! Kids have a need to achieve and to be recognized for their achievements. Affirm them for their efforts as well as their achievements. It’s important to nourish this intimacy need without communicating to them that their worth is based on their achievements. They need to know they are loved and accepted for who they are—not for what they do or how well they do it.

Express appreciation for their character traits. “You made an A on the test. That’s terrific! But you know what? You’re a terrific kid! I really appreciate the diligence and perseverance you’ve shown in that class this year. I know it’s been tough, but you’ve hung in there! I admire that about you.” 

C

Choose to Listen
Listening is a lost art. The art of listening has two prerequisites. One is to slow down; the other is to stop talking!

Make the choice to carve out time from your schedule to really listen to what’s on your child’s heart. If you don’t, they’ll find someone else who will. If you want your child to listen to you, you must be willing to listen to them. Provide an atmosphere in your home that says, “We care about you. What’s important to you is important to us. We’re here to listen. 

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