It’s that time of year again when kids groan and parents rejoice. The summer has been long, parents have done everything they can to keep their kids occupied and out of trouble. Summers are often filled with lots of vacations, staying up late and kids getting much more freedom than during the school year. By August, most parents are tired and ready for their kid to be back in school and get a “normal” routine underway. This however, can be quite challenging and if you’re a parent reading this you know what I mean. Most mental health professionals and agencies see a spike in the need for services right around the start of the new school year. Often the type of service that is needed is behavioral.
Why is this?
Kids have a hard time transitioning, especially if it’s from doing something they love (i.e. staying up late, playing with friends, vacation, etc) to something they don’t love (i.e. school). The beginning of the school year can really be shock to their system. They have to be up early, eat a full meal, learn new rules, meet new people, understand their academic responsibilities, be disciplined in doing their homework, accommodate to afterschool activities, participate in family time, go to bed on time so they can get a good night’s sleep just to do it all over again. For us parents, this seems like no big deal, because we have had to be responsible for a great many things for a lot longer. We’re used to carrying that weight. But for the average kid, this is A LOT and can be overwhelming.
There will always be outliers and exceptions to the rule. There will always be kids who are more responsible than their age and are able to handle more than their peers; but they can’t be the standard of measurement. Being overwhelmed, stressed and anxious can look different for every kid. Sometimes their stress comes out in verbal and physical aggression. Sometimes they will become more isolated and not open up, giving off the perception that they are depressed or overly sensitive. Certainly these are not the only ways kids will seek to deal with their stress, these are just examples I have seen in my practice.
Kids with behavioral challenges don’t necessarily have a psychiatric issue, they may be just dealing with an overloaded plate.
Things to look for as a parent of a kid going back to school:
1. Are home expectations reasonable?
2. Have you overloaded your kids schedule because you want them to achieve and have lots of memories?
3. Are their academic expectations reasonable? (Talk with their teacher, develop a rapport, communicate what your kid can and can’t handle)
4. What’s your communication style like with your kid? Are you staying consistent with your messages? Are your messages always negative? Are you trying to be more of friend? Are you too strict?
5. Does your kid feel like they can be a kid in your home?
6. Is there a lack of structure in your house? This can be a significant reason why behavior challenges occur. When a school environment has more structure and the home environment doesn’t behavior challenges will happen because there is a sharp contrast between the two environments.
Really the goal here is to be intentional with your kid and better understand what they can handle, what they are good at and what they can grow in.
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