It’s that time again! Summer is coming to an end and preparations for the school year have already begun. This time of year can be very exhilarating (and nerve wracking) for teens as they venture off into new schools, new classes and new opportunities. It can also be very exciting (and nerve wracking) for parents as they watch their children grow and mature into young adults and wonder, “where did all the time go?”
It also proves to be a time for adjustment as parents juggle work, school, childcare and after school activities, while our kids are juggling new classes, new rules, new friends, a new school and new decisions. As we welcome the “newness” and adjust to the challenges ahead, here are a few tips we can all use to make the transition go a little smoother.
- Routine: We often lose sight of routine during the summer months as we venture out on vacations, enjoy nighttime activities, and indulge in those sweet summer cravings. Getting back into a routine for the school year can be very beneficial. Remember to get to bed early and get a good night sleep. Eat right and don’t forget a healthy breakfast. This will ensure we start our day off right, giving us the energy we need to make it through all the activities ahead.
- Organization: The new school year can mean a fresh start. No more loose papers and half eaten bags of chips in your backpack. Make a point this year to stay organized. Have separate folders for each class, and keep all of your homework in one location. Parents can also help kids stay organized, with little reminders and words of encouragement throughout the week. Also set an example and make this school year a fresh start for you as well by cleaning out your briefcase or tidying up your work space.
- Calendars and Lists: With new class and sports schedules, and after school activities, having a family calendar can be a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page. Create a family calendar with everyone’s activities and special events. Make sure to place in a location that each of you can see (even the younger kids); the kitchen is often a great spot. This will ensure everybody knows what is planned for each day and where you all will and should be, at any given time throughout the day. (Parents don’t forget to add your business trips and events as well!) Students, stay on top of homework and projects by creating a personal calendar for your schoolwork. Keep it in your room or backpack so you don’t lose track of what needs to get done.
- Communication: Don’t forget to communicate with one another. This is often forgotten as the days fill up quickly and before we know it, we are off to bed never having discussed the days activities. Parents, remember to talk to your kids about how their day has been and how they are doing in school and sports and socially. Ask questions, be involved, know what they are doing. Sometimes they might just respond with “It’s fine…I’ve got everything under control” and that’s OK. Just remember the gesture of asking, shows you care and you’re interested. These kind of check -ins, should become habitual … just like checking your e-mail.
The new school year can also mean a whole new school. Whether students are transitioning from elementary school to junior high or junior high to high school, a new school can mean a lot of unknowns for students and parents. It also can produce anxiety, and stress. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind throughout the transitions.
- Elementary School to Junior High
- Multiple Classes: Transitioning from having one classroom to having six classes a day can be scary, changing their clothes during in PE in front of other kids, is awkward, finding a familiar face at lunch, is daunting. Parents remind your students that they are not alone. Everyone makes this transition and they will be making the transition will all of their friends. They will have each other to help guide them through the new campus and this new adventure. Remember this is a time to get to know new people and make new friends and challenge themselves to new and different things.
- Independence: The transition into junior high leaves kids feeling more like young adults and less like children. They often want to test the limits and do things on their own without their parents stepping in. Giving your child the opportunity to make their own choices is important, but parents should never be too far behind and intervene if needed. This is when calendars, organization and communication come in handy! This is also when social media and technology are at an all time high. Should you choose to give those luxuries to your pre-teen, make sure you discuss all of the pros and cons of being “connected”, have healthy boundaries (for example, some experts say, no phones in the bedroom at night) and make sure you know exactly who and where your child is online.
- Junior High to High School
- Class Schedules: High school is an thrilling time for students as they find that they get to participate in the choosing of classes – they finally have choices! This can be a great opportunity for students to branch out, expand their knowledge about topics/classes that interest them. Give your students the opportunity to explore what they are passionate about. While it is often thought that taking honors and AP classes is a student’s best chance at college, these classes can often lead to the exact opposite. If your student is not ready for the material and the coursework, taking honors and AP classes can create unnecessary stress and lead to a poor grade on their transcript. Be open to listening to both your teen’s ideas and opinions, discuss with counseling staff and come to a compromise on what’s best for their educational success as well as their health and well being. Happy Kids Produce Happy Results!
- Activities: High school opens the doors to a lot of new activities; sports, theater, math club, ASB, choir, band … the list of activities can be endless. This is a great time to try new things. If interests change and become different from before, remember that is okay; high school is a great time to explore and step out of one’s comfort zone.
And lastly … while all these changes are happening inside the classroom, don’t forget what is happening inside your teen’s body/brain. Hormones, puberty, mood swings… they impact everything, as you are probably already experiencing. Keep in mind, some of those issues are hard to control and can be confusing for teens – be patient, kind and loving while you all adjust to the next phase of young adulthood.
Remembering these few tips and finding a routine and schedule that fits your family will make this new school year a great one. There will be bumps and obstacles, but laying a good foundation from the get go – makes it more manageable for everyone in the house. Don’t forget to make time for each other; whether it’s family dinner every Sunday, or an early morning hike on the weekends before tournaments, performances or frequent social trips to the mall …it’s very important to spend time nurturing FAMILY and HOME.