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Michelle Fern Michelle Fern
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Back to school stresses of both kids and parents

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Bye-bye summer. Most students will start school this week if not next, and for the parents getting their little ones ready to relearn all that they forgot over the summer, it's a stressful time rushing around gathering school supplies, clothes, sneakers, lunch boxes and much more. For both parents and students alike, it's an exciting time as parents are likely ready for their kids to go back to school, and kids want to reconnect with friends and get back to structured activities.

As I walked through the brand new Pre K-8 Brewer Community School a couple of weeks ago, it brought back memories of squeaky clean floors, freshly-painted walls, sterile classrooms and bathrooms - those empty halls will soon be filled with approximately 1,000 kids wandering from room to room in awe of their new facility. I recall being lucky as a child, since I also had a brand new elementary school before moving up to a just-built middle school and again a new high school.

Whether your child is new or old to the school scene, he or she may have some mixed emotions of anticipation and apprehension. Even those kids who are old pros and understand the routine and structure of the day, many will still experience jitters as they wonder who will be in their classes, and how they will fit in socially during the school year. New students, whether its by moving into a district or up in the ranks of kindergarten, middle and high school, may have added concerns, including how to find their way around, who to sit with in the cafeteria for lunch, and how they will get along with the teachers and keep up academically.

Before she died in 2010 after a lengthy battle with cancer, Dr. Ruth Peters, a renowned clinical psychologist who often appeared on NBC's "Today" show, offered advice to parents that included addressing their kids' concerns and questions about the new school year. For a parent, Peters said perhaps the most important thing is to make sure you are really listening to your child. Asking questions like "Did you have a good day at school today?" will probably yield a quick "Yes," whether it's true or not. Instead, she said you sometimes have to dig a little deeper and observe your child's behavior - kids are often embarrassed to discuss their social fears, even with their parents.

Below are just a few of her tips for parents to help kick off a new school year:

Celebrate the new school year

To start the school year off on the right foot, parents can give their child a special back-to-school gift. Some thoughtful gift ideas are a unique bookmark to use in school books, a journal, or a special pen or pencil for writing. These can mean the world to a child.

Or, take your kids to a special restaurant to celebrate the first day or make a special dinner with all their favorites.

Deploy stress relievers

Teaching your child how to handle stress can help them maintain a healthy balance throughout the day. A few simple techniques include drawing, exercising, playing, dancing or singing. Or, parents might just give their child a great big hug and treat them to a special night of quality one-on-one time together.

Monitor your child's behavior

School can be overwhelming. Your child can feel worn out and may need a boost. Keep an eye on your child's behavior, such as losing their temper, overreacting or disinterest in their favorite hobbies. Take action and make sure your child has some "me time" so they can decompress and rejuvenate themselves. Even going out with friends to talk and play can help them calm down.

In the end, it's up to your child to make the connection with the school and friendship with peers, but hopefully you make those first few weeks a bit less worrisome and more fun for your child.

Last modified on Monday, 19 December 2011 16:48

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