This is the time of year for many transitions. The speed of life shifts from summer’s easy rhythms into fall’s busier routines. The flexibility of summer time becomes constrained by the schedule of the school year. Priorities shift from asking how much fun a child is having in summer activities to questions about how well a child is working in school. Children often have to adapt to a new teacher, a new classroom, and new classmates—and to do it quickly. They often find at school that expectations are higher, rules are stricter, and the consequences for not adhering to either of these may be greater than they were over the summer or last year. Even though these fall transitions can be tough, most children are quite sturdy and can manage it well. Here are some ideas I have about helping your child and yourself meet these challenges:
You can protect your child’s right to have some unscheduled time—unstructured, un-programmed, and reasonably un-supervised. Everyone needs some “down time” for day dreaming, making things up, and playing alone or with friends—especially for children who have lost so much free time at school lunch and recess. This is not wasted time—research has found that relaxation and imaginative play are absolutely essential for creativity and stress release. (Screen time can be fun, but it is more stimulating than relaxing.)
And yes, you need and will benefit from some regular unscheduled, unstructured, un-programmed time, too. It is not a luxury, but a necessity. Make it happen for yourself and enjoy it without guilt.
Give your child regular opportunities to experience meaningful success—without tests, grades, wins, trophies, scores, etc., etc. Our kids are growing up in a highly competitive environment—which can be a mighty hard place to learn the confidence and courage that makes a child resilient. Every child longs to feel like a successful person, someone who can do things. At home, children can find this by learning and practicing the simple, vital skills of everyday life—sewing on a button, cracking an egg, refilling the windshield cleaner fluid or checking tire pressures. And they can enjoy feeling successful without being tested or graded. It’s so much easier to handle the ups and downs of learning how to read or do division when you know that you are a person who can also do cool things like cook pancakes and light candles.
And allow yourself to recognize and enjoy your child’s success, too. Pat yourself on the back for what you’ve done to make it possible. It may sometimes seem like a “winner take all” world, but the world is not really divided into “winners” and “losers.” It is full of people just like you and me and our children--imperfect, but capable of learning and improvement a little bit every day. We all feel a little bit less crazy and more encouraged when we remember that.