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Back to school is a stressful time for EVERYONE! It’s stressful for parents because the lazy, hazy days of summer are winding down and will soon be replaced with early mornings, go-go-go all day, practices after school, harried, hurried meals and bedtime routines.
It’s stressful for kids because there are new teachers and classmates to meet, possibly a new building to navigate and then there’s the lunchroom! EEK! Have you visited a school lunchroom lately? They are NOISY and while it’s good noise, it can be super stressful for some students.
When planning for this post, I did a little digging to see how much is being written from the perspective of the child and you know what? I didn’t find a thing. I found a lot of “What Your Child’s Teacher Wishes You Knew,” and even some, “What the Principal Wants Parents to Know,” but not one thing from a child’s perspective and that needs to change. You know like I know, kids have opinions and thoughts about everything, just like adults, but too often they are reticent to speak up and begin a conversation about anything.
I get to spend my days in classrooms, talking with kids and I hear what they are saying. I also see what they aren’t saying.
I’ve compiled the following list from my experiences of being a Mama as well as from my time in the classroom. Now, I have to state that every child is different. They have different levels of coping abilities and different circumstances that concern them. You, Mama, know your child best. What I’m hoping to accomplish with this list is to jump start a candid conversation between you and your child regarding any concerns they may have surrounding back to school. Use this article to start that conversation!
Back to School – What Your Child Wishes You Knew-They are Scared and Anxious
A lot of kids have some level of nervousness surrounding back to school. It’s normal. So you talk about what your child can expect on the first day. You accompany them to Meet Your Teacher Night and walk around the building with him or her. And if they are littles, you may want to finish the last few weeks of summer by reading books about school and discussing what you’ve read and what your child can expect at school that year.
However, there are other children whose anxiety can get in the way of their daily activities. They may obsess over the upcoming school year. It may become something they fixate on. Over two million American kids have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders and while there are varying levels of anxiety, just know that you are not alone in your struggle to help your child transition smoothly into the new school year.
Ask your child how he or she is feeling about the upcoming year. This may bring to light some concerns they have that you are immediately able to dispel, or it may being to light concerns that you are able to work to dispel. Either way, it will help you to know what your child is thinking.
Back to School – What Your Child Wishes You Knew- They May Say They Don’t Want to be There, But They Really Do
Sometimes kids say they hate school or don’t want to go to school. Typically, when this happens, in my experience as a Mama, there are reasons the child feels this way, that haven’t been discussed.
Kids love to be with their friends. They usually have at least one extra-curricular activity that they are interested in, and while Math might be difficult or English might not be their thing, they really don’t mind school. When I hear a student say that they hate school or don’t want to be there, almost without exception, it is a red flag that something else is going on.
Mama, you know your child best. If he or she says that they don’t want to be at school, start digging into why. It could be that they are being bullied and you don’t know anything about it. It could be they have a conflict with a teacher that needs to be looked into. There are any number of reasons why a child would say they don’t want to be at school, and your job is to find out what the reason is.
Back to School – What Your Child Wishes You Knew-It’s Hard for Them, And Sometimes Teachers Don’t Get It
In my personal situation as Mama, there was only one teacher in my child’s entire educational career who got it. Mr. Green. I don’t know where he is today, but if I ever see that man again, I will certainly thank him.
Mr. Green understood. I don’t know how, or what his story was that made him so in tune, but he really got it. He was a 6th Grade Social Sciences teacher. The 6th Graders in our town are now in Middle School. New school. New teachers. A lot to be concerned about if your a 6th Grader. Even more to be concerned about if you’re an undiagnosed 6th Grader just trying your hardest to do your best.
My son came home one day and asked me to set the timer for 20 minutes. He was getting ready to begin homework for the night, and so, curious, I did as he asked and I set the timer. I watched as he took out his work and began to do his homework. I peeked over his shoulder and noticed there were 20 questions total. When the timer beeped, only 10 were complete. When I asked about it, my son said Mr. Green had taken him aside after class and told him to set the timer for 20 minutes and whatever got done in that amount of time was good. No need to keep working any longer. What got done, got done. All good.
This was very different from my son’s other classes. I can’t tell you the number of nights we stayed up way past bedtime, working on Math problems. My child got his IEP in 10th grade, so if you are familiar with Individualized Education Plans and learning differences, you have an appreciation for how things were in our house for years.
I share that not to bash on teachers who don’t get it, but to encourage you, Mama, to advocate for your child. If they are struggling, initiate a conversation with your child first and then have a conversation with their teacher. Bring some ideas to the table and see what you both can do to help your child learn.
Back to School – What Your Child Wishes You Knew-Going to School Makes Them Tired. Really Tired
This is especially true at the beginning of the school year due to the change in schedule from summer to school. Getting an adequate amount of sleep every night is important for everyone, but especially kids.
Some children are on medications and the medications can make them sleepy. Sometimes meds need to be changed and this can cause a change in the student’s ability to get good sleep at night.
Other “school” factors that can contribute to a sleepier than normal kiddo is just the emotional energy and stress that goes in to worrying about classwork and school in general. Remember, it takes a lot of energy to try to hide differences and difficulties.
Back to School – What Your Child Wishes You Knew-They Are Afraid to Grow Up
Remember that not all children experience items on this list, but I have heard more than one story related to this one.
When my own daughter was in Kindergarten she saw her brother working on 3rd Grade Math. She absolutely lost it, crying and carrying on, saying she would never be able to do 3rd Grade Math! We laugh about it now, but every now and again when she starts to get ahead of herself I remind her that when she gets to 3rd Grade, she will be ready for 3rd Grade Math!
There are other ways this may manifest itself. It could be that your child procrastinates school responsibilities, thinking that if they don’t do them, they will just go away. It’s hard to stretch, emotionally, intellectually and educationally, but that’s exactly what growing up is. . .stretching to that next level and sometimes it is a bit uncomfortable. Ask your child how they feel about taking the next step in their education and see if they have any misguided beliefs about growing up.
Back to School – What Your Child Wishes You Knew-The Cafeteria Can Be An Intimidating Place!
It may sound silly to you, Mama, but your child may find the cafeteria pretty scary! Have you visited lately? Chances are, you’re welcome at the elementary level but probably not at the upper levels and for good reason! They’re so crowded, there’s no room for visitors at all.
When my niece was a Freshman in high school she went to a newly built school in her neighborhood and guess what? She spent the whole of her Freshman year eating on the floor! Yep! A brand new building that wasn’t built big enough to accommodate the students in her lunch shift!
I don’t know how that got so messed up, but step back a bit and put yourself in a child’s shoes. There are throngs of other kids, all talking and walking and multiple lines of them waiting to get hamburgers or a hot lunch or pizza. Some are in line for the salad bar or to get milk. It’s like organized chaos and many kids don’t do well with that level of noise and movement.
Many kids will refuse to eat in the cafeteria and choose instead to bring their lunch from home, bypassing the need to go into the cafeteria at all. If your student prefers to always bring a lunch to school, ask why. It could be that he or she finds the lunchroom too big, too noisy or too crowded for them.
These are a few things your child wishes you knew about going back to school. I see it every year, and while the students come and go in the classrooms I’m in, the worries and struggles are often very similar.
As Mamas, we can begin a candid conversation with our children to find out what concerns they have. Hopefully by doing so, we can begin to ease their fears and get them pointed in a more positive direction with which to start a new year.
How about you? Do any of these sound like your child? What other concerns would you add to this list?