Today, parent educator Hetti Wohlgemuth shares fall structure strategies that are useful to keep in mind through the whole year:
“Around this time every year I get a small back-to-fall-schedules lump in my throat and wonder, 'Who took my summer away from me?' Kids experience the same emotions, and they’ll likely need some help through the transitions. Here are some tips on coping with return to fall structure.
Find a friend. Going back to school feels a lot better when you recognize a friend. Take advantage of school-arranged class play dates or arrange them on your own. If possible, visit the school, playground, or teacher in advance. Familiarity breeds comfort.
Hold the criticism. If you’re not enthusiastic about your child's assigned teacher, keep a lid on your feelings. Do it for the simple reason that you are not your child. You and s/he will have different likes and dislikes all through life, and that's a healthy phenomenon. My daughters were assigned a second grade teacher I was not wild about; she met cupcake bearing moms at the door and did not invite them in to dispense said cupcakes even on your child's birthday, she gave graded spelling tests each week and created homogenous reading groups (so much for my liberal ideas of pass/fail class rooms and all levels learning from one another). But lo and behold she was both Emmy and Jessie's favorite elementary school teacher. Good thing I didn't bias them against her. They might have had to work harder to like and trust her and learned less in the interim.
Model good behavior towards your own commitments. Parenting definitely is not about what we say, it’s about what we do. I continue to be amazed by my girls' conscientious attitudes toward school/work. I never needed to badger them to get up, get dressed, eat a good breakfast, or do their homework (they did not make their beds and I didn't badger them about that; I figured missing one out of five wasn't bad). In fact, whenever I tried to tell them to do their homework or what time to do it, they calmly reassured me that I need not worry, "We have it under control, Mom." And they did. I think they got this from watching their Dad and me. Whatever task we undertook, we got up on time, got dressed, ate a good breakfast, and completed the task thoroughly.
Keep your eyes – and mind – open. As your child moves through the school year, watch how s/he responds. Schools have different personalities and some will be a better/worse fit for your little person. We sent our daughter Em to a private pre-school that was quite academic, with very little playtime, and she clearly wasn’t happy there. At the end of the year we moved her to public school, which ended up being perfect for her. Keep in mind that mistakes happen and can be undone.
Create an atmosphere where your children can vent/voice their feelings. I can't highlight this point enough and it can be challenging to implement, particularly if you tend towards privacy yourself and like to get a handle on your problems before talking about them. But the key is to remember that sometimes kids just need to air their feelings, without the parent denying or judging the feelings or trying to solve the problem. Just listen.
Give your child choices. Simple acts such as giving your child choice over their lunch box, backpack or fall sweater serves to give them control and a sense of identity in a world where they don't have much control.
Bottom Line. It's an adjustment for all of us to return to the structure of fall. Perhaps if we share our feelings about the transition, our children will air theirs. We can mourn the lazy days of summer together then move on to the crisp, colorfulness of fall. And our children will have learned a thing or two in the process.”
Editor's Note: for more on fall transitions, see Sheri's excellent post on easing back to school jitters.
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