As the end of summer vacations for your children and adolescents approaches, your family may start feeling the stress of preparing to return to the new school year. Although you, like many parents, may believe that preparing for school is only a stressful event for you and your spouse, your children may pick up on the stress at home over preparing to return to school also. Returning to a new school year brings forth many life areas that call for organizing, planning, and budgeting. However, you may choose to apply the following two strategies as you try to prepare your children for the new school year with the purpose of decreasing stress.
First Things First – Set the Calendar in Motion
Invest some time into acquiring at least two functional calendars for family use. Having visual calendars may help your family get their days organized and in defining tasks to accomplish in preparing for the first day of school. Having tasks written down and displayed may also suggest a sense of structure for your children (and you), which may help in decreasing some stress related to the uncertainty of not knowing what task is coming up next.
I suggest one large desk calendar that every person in the household has access to use. Likewise, search for free online calendars that your family has access to use from anywhere with internet access; some email accounts offer the ability to share calendars with groups, which are also accessible from smart phones. All tasks written on the desk calendar must be followed up by updating the online calendar with the same information to keep organized.
Your family (community) calendar may be a valuable learning tool for families and children. Encourage the children to participate in writing down their own activities and tasks on the calendar. You may choose to have one child, or more, assigned calendar management. Although most parents might immediately assume to have their most responsible child manage the calendar, allowing the child in the family who shows less skills in organization to manage the calendar may be more beneficial for that child and the family. You may be surprised to find that your child develops organizational and leadership skills through the experience of the responsibility of managing a calendar.
If you have more than one child, think about delegating calendar management tasks to your children. For example, one child manages the desk calendar and a second child manages the online calendar. Spend some time with your children explaining the purpose of the calendar, tasks that need to be recorded in the calendar, procedures for checking off calendar tasks that were accomplished, and discuss communicating the calendar with the family. Making time to discuss the calendar during dinner time may be fruitful for your family. Allowing your children to participate on updating and managing the family calendars may promote a sense of community, your children learn proactive and organizational skills, and your children may develop a sense of empowerment when they become aware that they, too, have abilities that create synergy within their home and family.
Remember to add the daily schedule on the calendar: wake-up, breakfast, chores, extracurricular activities, homework, dinner, laundry, and any other pertinent activities that should be added onto your family’s calendar.
Out With the Old, In With the New
Preparing for the new school year may call for new attire, accessories, and supplies for your children and adolescents. The collecting and purchasing of the attire, accessories, and supplies may look drastically different for the different families depending on needs and budgets.
However, before any new items are purchased, you may want to have your children clean out their storage areas and evaluate the condition, appropriateness, and usefulness of the old items. Then decide whether to recycle, donate, or discard the old items. Next, decide on the new items needed, make a list for each child, and set a budget. Think about spending only on the basics because teachers and schools are likely to send out supplies lists on the first day of school, which will provide you with a clear sense of items needed and helps you avoid spending more than necessary. As you prepare, you may also want to check your children's school websites to search for any information that may help you in becoming informed and assessing your children's back-to-school needs.
Consider the appropriateness of the articles purchased for school. You may want to pay close attention to messages on shirts, bags, and backpacks; clothing for girls that expose too much skin; clothes that fit too loose and big or too small, short and tight. You may also want to pay attention to the messages of certain accessories. For instance, a few years ago girls were wearing rubber wrist bracelets of multiple colors. Later, parents learned that each color represented an inappropriate and unsafe activity. Sadly, girls continued to collect these colorful rubber bracelets, traded them at school with peers, and parents had no clue what the fascination of the bracelets was all about. Secondly, tops with lace are in style right now, but the question is: Should girls wear lace garments to school? Dress codes may be found on school websites as well.
Therefore, before driving your children and teens to shop for their back-to-school supplies, discuss and agree on the items that you will purchase, make the list of items needed, and stick to your list while you shop. Organizing a plan to shop should cut down on time, arguments during shopping, and keep you and your children mindful of the budget and limits.
Back-to-school season is an exciting time for children! Parents should nurture their children's excitement to promote enthusiasm for new adventures. By preparing for the new school year using strategies that help to decrease stress, you may help switch the message to your children of, “new life changes are stressful,” to, “new life changes can be wonderful learning opportunities!”
Sonia Kurfess, M.A. - REGISTERED MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST INTERN with Turning Point Counseling.
Sonia has a passion to see relationships improve by the growth of the individual into a healthy person reflecting Christ's image. She enjoys working with individuals, couples, families, youth, and children. Although she embraces an eclectic approach to therapy, she is most comfortable with a combination of a Cognitive Behavioral, Solution Focused, and Manuchin Family therapy approach in the reshaping of thinking and behavior.
Sonia believes in the development of the individual to reflect Christ for the benefit to humanity, one life at a time to the glory of Christ Jesus!
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