September 05, 2012

Going Back to School Chaos: Help for Parents

With the kids heading back to school, many households are thrown into chaos by all of the changes the new routines and activities bring. Coordinating schedules, having the time and energy to fit everything in can be a real challenge for both parents and kid. Today we have some tips for mom and dad to help their kids make the transition from summer vacation to school as smooth as possible and to keep couples from becoming personally overwhelmed and neglectful of one another.

The Psychology of Change: The Basics

-- We are all creatures of habit and we love our well worn routines. Anything that causes a change to our routines is stressful because there is a transitional period where the old routine is gone but the new one is not yet established. Families need to know that the time which lies between the established Summer schedule and the new Fall one will be somewhat stressful but ... only for a while.

-- The stress that comes from necessitated change often results in increased anxiety and an unwillingness to accept the it.  Tempers can flare and more frequent squabbles among family members can occur. 

-- Emotionally, in addition to solid boundaries and rules, kids need both empathy and understanding of what they are going through as well as the reassuring perspective that while some things are different, not everything has changed.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

-- Not doing your homework regarding the predictable transition of going back to school can result in feeling caught off guard and being overwhelmed.

-- Have unrealistic expectations of how families must adjust to change, such as having no complaints or conflicts can place pressure on folks to strive for unachievable goals. Likewise falsely thinking that you can control everything or keep things organized in the midst of change.

-- Responding when feeling overwhelmed, may result in overreacting or in making exaggerated responses and unreasonable decisions.

-- One parent acting in isolation without communicating with the other can set up potential disagreements.  

-- Feeling guilty can result in not being able to say no or not enforcing house rules which weakens the your children's understanding of their boundaries.  

-- Getting too caught up in school activities which can result in neglecting personal needs or the marital relationship.

Tips for a Positive and Smooth Transition back to School

1. Be aware that transitions are stressful and Anticipate the rough spots  that the new the school year brings. Think about how you've dealt with changes in the past. Pay attention to what worked and  avoid what didn't. Emphasize aspects of family life which are not affected and how not everything has changed.

2. Have realistic expectations You can't control everything and transitions are messy -- for a while. No one is perfect and there is no such thing as a perfect family, so stop trying.  It is normal that some folks are going to be upset with certain decisions or compromises. Change involves frustrations but these are not catastrophic events. They are time limited and you will survive.

3. Commit to civility. Remember that you love one another. Brush up on your anger management skills.  Writing thoughts and feelings out on paper first is a good way to reduce the distorting and distracting emotions.  

4. Don't be rushed or pressured. Take some time to think things over and talk about it with your mate, before talking to the kids.  Work together as a team.

5. Take care of yours and your relationship's needs. Protect Romance Don't neglect your relationship or let the kids or school problems become your whole life. Carve out date nights and time without the kids.  It is not only OK but necessary to take care of yourself as individuals and as a couple for you to be able to be a good parent.

The Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC prepared these remarks for Bridge Street 9 5 2012  www.revmichaelheath.com/ .

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