GETTING READY FOR THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR
A new school year lies ahead of us. It is both an exciting and dreading moment at the same time. It is definitely a big transition that all children experience every year. Children who start school for the first time or who go to a new school face the biggest adjustments. Even just moving up a grade requires to get used to a new teacher, changing social circle, and having more academic demands. However, with some preparation and forethought, children can get ready for the big day.
Here are a few strategies to help her:
1. Have conversations about the next school and/or grade before the first day of school. Prepare your child by telling her what she can expect, including playground, snack, reading, computers, music, and art classes. Share your own stories about what you loved at school when you were a child.
2. Get your child back on an early bedtime several days before school starts. Since most children stay up late in the summer months, they can sleep in late in the morning. However, they will not be able to keep the same schedule once school starts. So, make sure your child has enough sleep (between 9.5 and 11 hours depending on her age and individual physiology) by moving bedtime a bit earlier every night a week before school starts.
3. Involve your child in the process of getting back to school. For instance, let her choose her own school supplies either from home or from a store and let her put them in her backpack. Discuss with her a few options she can have for a healthy snack and lunch. Similarly, let her choose her clothes or give her a few options. The more your child will feel in charge, the less she will be nervous/anxious for the big day.
4. The day before school starts, tell exactly your child what will happen. It will give her a comfortable mental representation of what to expect. The unknown is what makes her nervous/anxious. So, by describing her what to expect the big day, it will help her relieve the potential stress.
5. When saying goodbye, your child may feel teary. Then, reassure her she will be fine and that you cannot wait to see her at the end of the day. Your child needs to be left with a new person she can attach to, such as a teacher or a teacher’s aide. Your child’s tears should not last long. In case they do, make sure to talk to the teacher so that you can elaborate a strategy to help your child handle this transition.
Before school starts or even the first days of school, your child may experience some unusual meltdowns. Be sure to be present emotionally for your child and to normalize her emotions. With time and patience, your child will quickly adjust to her new routine.
HOW YOUR CHILD CAN HAVE A SUCCESSFUL SUMMER VACATION
When summer break is finally there, children are thrilled to be able to enjoy their free time away from school. While it is good to have no plans at times, having no summer plans at all is the worst as children need structure. Over summer, it is essential to have your child engaged and to keep challenging her.
Here are a few tips for your child to have a successful summer vacation:
1. Engage the entire family in planning. If, as a family, you plan your vacation together, then your child will be more enthusiastic to go. Encourage your child to research vacation spots and give them a voice in the planning. The more she will participate in the planning of the vacation, the more she will feel respected and eager to travel. You will be rewarded with a good attitude.
2. Increase creativity and reduce technology. In the 21st century, we all need and use technology. However, taking a break from it allows the development of creativity. Reading a book alone or with someone, enrolling in an art class, or participating in a sport summer camp are activities that promote your child’s leadership and group skills.
3. Balancing activities with down time. Running around all summer without a moment to rest leads to exhaustion. So, make sure that your child has a balanced schedule between exciting and quiet activities. Reading or playing an instrument have a rejuvenating effect. Too much excitement may cause meltdowns, tantrums, and fatigue.
4. Spending time together. What matters the most is the quality of time you spend together with your child. It is not necessary to go on a complicated family vacation. If your child is on vacation and you are not, think about a special time you may want to spend every day with your child. Maybe, you have a walk in the evening in your neighborhood, play a board game, or create funny stories together. If you do something special, your child will have wonderful memories of her childhood vacation.
SHOWING UNCONDITIONAL LOVE TO YOUR CHILD
When your child behaves as you expect, you love her unconditionally, but when she starts to drive you crazy, it might be more challenging to keep loving her unconditionally. However, your child needs this type of love at all times and in all circumstances. She needs to know she is lovable exactly as she is, that she is not expected to be perfect, and that being sad, angry, frustrated, or disappointed is what makes us human.
Here are a few ideas to show your child unconditional love:
1. Accept her feelings and put limits on her behavior. Demonstrating empathy toward your child makes her feel understood and accepted for who she is. For instance, say: “She knocked over your tower and you worked so hard on it, you are mad!” Remember that empathizing with your child does not mean you endorse her behavior. Reinforce the limits and offer other solutions. For example, say: “You know hitting hurts, so no hitting. So, what can you do instead? Let’s practice.”
2. Understand your child’s perspective. There is a reason behind your child’s misbehavior. It could be an unmet need or an upset feeling. If you address the underlying reason, there will be a change in your child. Maybe your child is worried to lose his special place in your heart since her little brother was born or maybe she needs help to learn some better strategies to keep track of things so she does not lose them. When you start putting yourself into your child’s shoes, then suddenly her misbehavior seems comprehensible and forgivable.
3. Love the child you have instead of trying to make her into someone else. Your job is to nurture your child so that she can blossom in her environment. Every child needs to be appreciated for who she is. Your daily support is one of the most essential factors in her development. If you find it hard, then take time to process the grief over the child you wanted and did not get. You are allowed to have these feelings, but you need to take responsibility to work them through and not let them impact your child negatively. When you see your child positively, only then can she see herself positively as well.
4. Use connection and repair rather than punishment. Every time a child is punished, she does not feel loved. Research shows that children who are disciplined with love withdrawal techniques, misbehave more. Your child does not need punishments, instead she needs to have limits set by her parents. When something gets broken, object or relationship, then you work with her using empathy, reconnection, and repair. Over time, your child will develop higher levels of emotional intelligence and sense of morality.
“Accept the children the way we accept trees—with gratitude, because they are a blessing—but do not have expectations or desires. You don’t expect trees to change, you love them as they are.”
― Isabel Allende
UPDATING “BECAUSE I SAID SO”
All parents would like to have their children cooperate and show some responsibility at home and at school. Threats, bribes, and multiple reminders are used to get our children to complete their tasks. When it does not work, we often end up using “Because I said so.” This authoritarian method of parenting is on its way out, as demanding compliance will fuel more power struggles. Instead, collaboration and respect produce more positive results.
Here are 4 ways to help your child improve her/his behavior:
1.” When…Then…” Phrase your requests by saying “When you have finished all your math problems, then you can go out to play with your friends.” Or “When your hands are clean, then I know you are ready to eat.” This technique is a way to communicate with your child positively rather than trying to “make her/him” do something. Even though the choices are limited, your child still has still the power to decide when she/he will be ready to move to the activity you are asking to be done.
2. "Anything you can do to…” This sentence invites cooperation from your child. For instance, say “Anything you can do to help us get ready to the beach would be really helpful.” Or “Can you help me rake all these leaves before it rains?” Although it is not guaranteed your child will respond positively, there is a great chance that she/he does so as the wording requests her/his participation and contribution rather than strict obedience.
3.” What is your plan for…?” Instead of telling your child “You need to finish your oral presentation due on Friday.”, ask her/him “What is your plan for getting your oral presentation done in time? “In addition to being more encouraging, this puts the ball firmly in her/his court. She/he is clearly the one in charge who needs to think about ways to get the job done.
4. ”Asked and answered.” This tool derived from the concepts of positive discipline stops whining in its tracks. When your child asks you for the umpteenth time if she/he can roller skate in the living room, the first time you try this strategy, remind her/him that you are not going to change your mind when she/he asks the same question over and over. Then, tell your child that from now on, when she/he repeats a question you have already answered, you will tell her/him “Asked and answered.” If you remain firm, she/he will quickly get the point.
Inviting cooperation and participation rather than handing down orders and yelling, will benefit everyone in the household and make everyone happier. Your child will be more willing to accept and fulfill her/his responsibilities.
STAYING CONNECTED WITH YOUR TWEEN
As your child hits the preteen years (10 - 12 years), you may think that parenting her can be quite a challenge. Everything (discipline, homework, school, family time) is renegotiated. The pressures of the peer groups intensify and the need for more independence increases. However, it is essential for tweens to feel they have a secure nest as they start new experiences in an exciting, but scary world. Maintaining a strong bond with your preteen while encouraging her to take healthy risks will help your child navigate these years.
Here are a few tips to positive parent your tween:
1. Stay connected. For instance, having dinner with your child every night or as much as possible is a good way to talk about her day. Another option is to spend 15 minutes at bedtime when it is more grounding and intimate. The goal is to schedule regular alone time with each parent so that your child gets an opportunity to open up about what happens in her life. If you listen closely and adopt a collaborative approach, then your tween will feel safe emotionally to share her inner world with you.
2. Re-evaluate your ideas about discipline. As your child grows up, some techniques will stop working. As soon as your child says: “You cannot make me”, then the power-based punishment strategies become ineffective. You will never win a power struggle. Maintaining a strong bond based on reciprocal love and respect is the most useful tool to get your preteen to follow your rules.
3. Be aware of the effects of hormones. Your child’s body is changing, creating mood swings, distractibility, competitiveness, and preoccupation with sex. Like toddlers, your tween can experience full-blown tantrums without even understanding the situation. When it happens, let your child know that you see how upset she is. Then, give her time to put herself together before discussing the issue further. Your tween does not necessarily understand her mood. Once she has calmed down, listen to her, acknowledge her perspective, even if you do not agree with her position, and work collaboratively toward a win/win situation.
4. Pay attention to the impact of popular culture. Tweens want to feel grown up, so they naturally mimic adult popular culture. They want to fit in with their friends, but they rely on their parents to keep them safe and let them know what is age-appropriate or not. They need you to enforce strict rules about Internet use or what movies are appropriate. Preteens want and need your guidance, even if they cannot show it.
The tween years can be difficult to journey through. However, with your strong emotional support and firm, yet age appropriate boundaries, your preteen can thrive and get ready to move toward her teen years.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.