Back to School with Paula 2015

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It is that time of year when college students are getting ready to leave for school, high school students are getting ready to begin classes and fall sports such as football or activities such as Marching Band are starting.   Elementary and Middle School students are starting to bicker at home and Mom is getting ready for the kids to head back to school.  School produces a lot of anxiety in children.  The academic work load is significant for today’s students.  Even students in Kindergarten have homework.  Besides the work load children are often involved in sports or music lessons or religious education and more.   Though most of these activities are valuable they also increase stress and our children may have little down time.  Hours on video games don’t reduce stress.  How does a family organize life to lower stress and maintain achievement.

Here are some ideas.

College students: 

Students leaving home for the first time have the most difficulty.  They are leaving friends and family for the first time and though excited for new life experiences are fearful of the challenges and losses.   When someone is leaving anger may pop up as a way to cope with leaving.  Parents can manage this by being empathetic and responding to the underlying emotions rather than the anger.   Parents are often under stress at this impending change in their life as a loved child is growing up and leaving home for college.  Sharing thoughts and feelings of pride in a child’s growth and success in life is important as well as love and affection recognizing that being apart may make one sad.  Preparing together is a good thing.  Shopping, planning and discussing the excitement and challenges of college are important.  Encouraging and reinforcing your student and their abilities is helpful.  Planning parent visits to campus is also important.  It is better for a student to get connected with their new school and develop new friends and engage in the full experience of college life than to come home too often.  Holiday and extended breaks at school are better choices for visits home.

 Elementary and Middle School students:

K through 8th grade students face many stresses and challenges.  The school day is intense.  The academic work load is significant for today’s students.   Good sleep habits, good eating habits and exercise are important.  Most children benefit from structure.  A schedule chart at home can be useful and reduce conflict or tasks not completed.  A chart should include the morning (before school) routine and the evening (after school) routine.  Charts can be tied to a reward system that provides positive reinforcement for cooperative behavior.  Many students have sports, or classes like dancing or music after school and schedules can be tight.  It is important that children have play time to be active and unwind as well.  Homework can be a challenge.  Students should have a quiet place where parents can monitor homework progress or help when necessary such as the kitchen table.  TV time should be saved until homework and dinner are done.  As students reach 3rd or 4th grade assignment note books become important to manage school work.

Bedtime Difficulties:

When children have difficulty getting to sleep at a reasonable  time the following ideas might help.

Have a bedtime routine.  Schedule bedtimes by the child’s age and sleep needs.  An eight year old and a twelve year old should not have the same bedtime.   After dinner and homework, time should be monitored and baths, brushing teeth, quiet reading alone or with a parent and prayers are some of the activities to prepare for sleep.  A child should have their own bed.  Reduce stimulation by ending video games, TV or rough housing prior to the bedtime routine as they interfere with sleep.

High School students:

High school students are often stressed.  The academic and social challenges of high school are significant.   Adequate sleep, healthy eating habits and physical activity are important for high school students.   The use of cell phones, iPods, and computers and other media increase stress, reduce focus on academics and may interfere with sleep.  Parents should remove phones and other media at bedtime when your student is expected to sleep.  Peers often call each other during the night interfering with sleep.   Keep up with your teen’s life.  Try to find ways to meet their friends and learn about the social context of their life.  As they mature they will be exposed to activities that are risky such as alcohol use, drug use or sexual experimentation.   Parent involvement in their student’s life by frequent meals together, activities together, and religious activities are important ways to keep channels of communication open.  Let your teen put their music on the car radio, driving time with kids often is a door to what is going on in their life.  Knowing the influences in your teen’s life will help you to head off problems.

Comments on the topics discussed in this article or ideas you would like to share are welcome.

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