Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Back To School Stress

You know all about buying school clothes and supplies, and providing a good breakfast, and the importance of exercise for your school-bound children. Here are a few of the less commonly known and discussed stresses you should be aware of that kids experience when they go back to school.

Make a schedule and stick to it. The human body likes habit. It works better and more efficiently when it can eat meals, and get up in the morning and go to bed at night at the same time each day.

Sugary and greasy foods are to be avoided always, but most especially at dinner time and later. These types of foods, and also eating dinner too close to bedtime, can lead to digestive upsets and a poor night's sleep which translates into poor thinking and performance skills in school.

Select a reasonably quiet, low-traffic area of the home in which to do homework. This should not be the bedroom. When done in the bedroom, anxiety surrounding homework can carry that burden into the night and have an adverse effect on a good night's sleep. Listening to music during homework is ok, some people learn better with music and it can be an aid to memory (like the Alphabet Song taught to young children), but it should not be loud or distracting.

Don't schedule more than two or three after-school or extra-curricular activities. Kids need some down time just to kick back and relax. On the other hand, do find fun activities that encourage social interaction and cooperation. That sets the stage for cooperative work and pleasure experiences into adulthood.

Stay in touch with your child's teachers by sending in a friendly note or calling and leaving a friendly message once a month. Something like, "Hi there, just checking to see if everything is OK with my Jimmy. Let me know if there are any problems." A good parent/teacher team can work wonders toward your child's success in school.

Conversely, if your child comes home with stories of "My teacher doesn't like me," don't dismiss them. Talk to the child and find why she feels this way, and then talk to the teacher. My son had such a teacher in high school, and it was pretty obvious to all the parents who attended Open House that autumn, that this teacher didn't like certain students. You may not be able to do much about it, but you also can't tell your child that he's mistaken when he's absolutely right. If this is an older child, this could be a good time for the "You have to learn how to get along with all sorts of people" speech.

If your child likes school and does well academically but has many stomach aches, head aches, or other symptoms that will keep him home from school, suspect bullying and report it immediately to school officials. Call the police if you believe there is the possibility for physical harm. Ignoring it, saying "Kids will be kids," has lead to serious, sometimes deadly consequences like beatings and shootings.

Always keep the lines of communication open; ask your children how school was that day, and what they did. Do not be judgmental if you receive responses like "Math is terrible" or "Social Studies sucks." Be supportive by agreeing that some subjects are more difficult than others, and you have confidence that your child will be successful. Offer to help or tutor in a difficult subject. If your child is silent or morose, or the answers to "How was your day? What did you do?" are repeatedly, "Oh, it was ok," or "Not much," that's as good as a Red Flag Warning that something is not right. Communicate – find out what's wrong before the problem becomes overwhelming.

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