I don’t know about the rest of you out there in the blogosphere, but as a mother of two teenage boys, my feet are already starting to shuffle in anticipation of the happy dance that they will be doing in just a few short weeks as the new school year gets under way!
It’s not like the boys are terrible kids – they’re not at all…its just that they’re (how can I put this…) HERE! Always, constantly. One of the two boys we have with us doesn’t go out of the house much. He is diagnosed with social anxiety and really struggles when he has to go out into the world, so he avoids it whenever he can. For him, summer translates into an extended period of avoidance.
If he were not required to maintain an ongoing relationship with the county, he would most likely be extending this “lets not leave the house” trend beyond the ringing of the first school bells; however, even though he has turned 18, there still are a few things he has to maintain in order to stay in the system and thankfully, completing his education is one of them!
Now, where was I? Oh yes, watching my feet get ready to start shuffling themselves for The Happy Dance.
Experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) tackled the issue of heading back to school in a recent study in which they found that parents can become proactive and do things to help their children head back to school with confidence. According to the findings, it comes down to strong communication and some understanding.
It makes all kinds of sense that the most anxiety producing conditions for children would be compound issues – such as those faced by children who are, in addition to starting a new school year also entering a new school. This would be children entering first grade from their pre-school or kindergarten environment, sixth grade children who are starting their first year in Middle School, having completed elementary school grade 5; and finally, children who are moving on from Middle School (or Jr. High School) entering the 9th grade. This is Freshmen year in most high schools and this transition is huge because students have to figure out how they will initially fit into the setting within the big-school.
Larry Tyson, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Human Studies and coordinator for Counselor Education program explains it. “When you are the new kid on the block, not knowing many people can make you self-conscious about how you will fit in.”
One of the first suggestions is to partner with your child’s school counselor, someone who can and will advocate for your child whenever something isn’t working the way it should or the way they want. Tyson recommends a 1:1 appointment once or twice yearly by parents so people at the school see you and hear from you.
Josh Klapow, Ph.D, is an associate professor in the School of Public Health and he comments on how there are almost always new situations that arise with our children during the time away from school in the summer. Some of these situations may seem insignificant or routine to us as adults, but to a young person heading into a new school year, possibly a new school system; something like hitting a growth spurt or experiencing a parental divorce or adding a new baby into the family, all can lead to extra anxiety.
Experts suggest that you become a silent observer, aware of that change can be stressful and that children may just require time to adjust to their new situation. It is wise to realize that there may be some tough time through the transition, but that it is all simply just part of the process.
It is also wise to realize that one face that is familiar can help reduce a tremendous amount of stress so if you can help your child establish a social connection before going back to school, it can help tremendously.
It is also recommended that you notify significant people at school (teacher, counselor) if your pre-teen or younger child has experienced a familial change so there can be a doorway of communication open for them at school with someone to talk to.
Learn to ask open-ended questions because your child may not always choose to or even be able to offer up what is bothering them. By asking open-ended questions you are inviting them to talk to you about what they think will help their situation.
Your proactive parenting will go a long way!
I’m a licensed clinical social worker and have worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. I combine professional experience in the mental health field along with my love of writing to provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. I hope my down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life is easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!