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4 Steps to Erasing Back-to-School Worries

It's no secret that the transition from summer to school can be abrupt. After enjoying three months of physical and mental freedom, kids often resist the return to passing the time strapped to a desk.
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It's no secret that the transition from summer to school can be abrupt. After enjoying three months of physical and mental freedom, kids often resist the return to passing the time strapped to a desk. We know the value and importance of a good education, but how often do the things we as adults know flutter right over the heads of our children? To help with this transition and ensure the education our kids need is the one they receive, consider putting the following strategies to use in your home.

1. Rewrite the Script.

It seems as though some kids arrive on this earth with a prewritten script outlining their dislike of school. From Pewaukee to Poughkeepsie, many reply with boring, stressful, or overwhelming when asked how they feel about it. In my practice, I've realized that kids often repeat a script without considering its truth; it's simply what kids say. Repeat a myth enough and soon it becomes your truth. You can break this cycle and help your kids see a greater vision of their education by giving them a new script.

With the aid of leading questions, find out what positives they see in school--if they were forced to come up with a list. Don't help. Don't interrupt. Just listen, and, when they're finished, dig for more. Discover why they chose those positives in particular, why they're important to them. Not every answer will be useful, but when you hit upon a reply that is both positive and motivating for your child, call attention to it, applaud it, ingrain it. You can also ask your kids about the outcomes they'd like to see at the end of the year: What are their goals for each class and for the school year overall? How will it feel to reach those goals? What will it take? Introducing thoughts like these will help to reframe the coming school year. It will give your kids a new script to repeat when thinking about school.

2. Offer Creative Outlets.

Boredom is a complaint I hear all the time in my practice. To combat this, I often suggest that parents put together creative outlets for their kids. Building this muscle outside of school can work magic when they return to the classroom. It reduces stress, boosts curiosity, and instills an excitement to discover. From drawing or painting to music, acting, or even working in a wood shop, the power of creativity cannot be overstated. Be the vehicle for that creative outlet and you'll serve your kids in more ways than one.

3. Back Off.

As much as I advise parents to get involved outside of school, it's a different story inside. Of course, it's vital to keep tabs on how things are going, show interest in their progress (or lack of it), and get involved when the situation calls for it. These are healthy ways to show care and concern. However, when that care transforms to obsessively checking grades, constantly emailing teachers, or piling on stress where stress already exists, it's time to take a step back. Always remember, the goal of parenting is to raise a healthy, responsible, independent child. The more you let them handle their business, the more they're able to build those qualities. Step back, but not away.

4. Manage Your Emotions.

The family unit is not a group of isolated participants. It's an ecosystem, with each player affecting the other. This is why it's also important to manage your own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I can't tell you how many stress-filled calls I get from parents of eighth graders who are preparing for their first year in high school. It's immediately clear that mom or dad's stress is flowing right into their kids. How can it not? When the role model in the home is tense, frustrated, worried, or upset, the sponge that is your child soaks up every last bit. So, with the benefit of experience, I can confidently say that you can do this. Millions of children transition to high school and thrive. It will take work, patience, faith, and a great sense of humor, but it can be done. Take care of your stress and you'll go a long way in taking care of theirs.

Education is the lifeblood of progress, in our home, our community, our country, and our world. Children have a choice about that education. They can approach it with negativity or they can approach it with positivity. Which way the balance leans is not out of your hands. In fact, it's something you can directly affect starting today. Summer is a time for fun and discovery. Follow these steps, and school can be too.

Todd Kestin is a teen coach and mentor. He writes about what it takes for teens to step up, stand out, and thrive. You can download his free report, 7 Qualities of Incredible Teens at toddkestin.com.