The advertising executives on Madison Avenue would have you believe that once you purchase all of those school supplies, first-day outfits, snap a picture, and send the children off for their first day of the new school year, that back-to-school is over. Not true!
As a family, we are now into our fourth week of the new school year and I never cease to be surprised at how long it actually takes for everyone to feel settled back into a new school year routine. So, if the morning, afternoon and or evening routine in your house is not yet as smooth as you would like it to be, please know that you are not alone.
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I walked my boys up to school the other morning and every parent I spoke with shared the particular challenges that their child was having with the new school year. Up until that point they thought that their child was the only one not feeling fully settled, far from it. It is completely normal for children, and parents, to take some time to settle into the new school year. Although the school may be the same, teachers, friends and routines all change. If you recently moved home everything about the back-to-school routine this year is new for the whole family. Then there are the transitions into nursery, preschool, elementary, middle, high school, college and beyond, each of which brings a new set of logistics to manage and navigate.
How do I know my children are still settling in? Each one of them is sharing their experiences with me, by either telling me or showing me with their behavior. For my first grader this manifests itself in both sharing his experiences of the day verbally as well as not wanting to go to school the following morning. My eighth grader tends to share different parts of her day with me at different times of the afternoon and into the evening, waking up the next day ready for a new day ahead. My fifth grader forgets about school as soon as he walks in the door and remembers things that he is concerned about while we are on the way to school the next morning.
Although each child has different concerns, mostly I help each one by listening to what they are sharing with me, gaining insights into their days and how they are processing the change. By listening, I help them to unload the emotions of the day. They don't need me to judge how they are handling it, they just need me to listen. By listening I help them learn how to help themselves. They often work through a situation simply by talking it through.
Every now and then, the helping may need to go a bit further if something they share indicates that I need to advocate for my child, or be more hands-on with my help. Then there are the settling-in situations that quickly morph into a routine that may cause you to be late, or to not get to bed on time, or to not get homework done etc. in those instances I recognize them and involve my children so that we can problem-solve and figure out what is going on and come up with some shared solutions.
So that you know you are not alone, I filmed this video to share my back-to-school experience with you. Along the way I also share some of the communication skills I use to identify the best way to help each child.