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Back to School! A message for dads. . .

By Steven Hahn, M.S. – Program Manager: Community Education Services, The Parent Child Center of Tulsa

Dads. . .
There is nothing like that sweet time of year when our kids are hard-pressed to get those last few days of summer vacation in before school starts up again in August. As a parent, the countdown begins too – last minute family fun outings, enjoying late summer evenings together with just enough sunlight for a few more evenings out before bedtime routines kick in again and the old phrase, “It’s a school night” enters our vocabulary once more.

Be on the lookout. . .
You might notice anxiety in your child that emerges through nervous energy appearing during the last couple of weeks or days before school begins. Be on the lookout for this increase in energy especially before bedtime as you get closer to the start of school. The reality is your child is “feeling” the transition that is about to happen. So if you notice an increase in hyperactivity, irritability, or aggression with your child, talk with them about the behavior change you have noticed. Ask them how they feel about the start of a new school year. Is your child happy and excited or anxious and unsure about school as the new academic year approaches?

Whatever the case. . .
Your child can benefit as you lead them through this major transition back into school. As a parent, we must not underestimate the power of this moment. Our kids have settled into a routine with us and other caregivers over the past few months and that routine is about to be significantly interrupted and changed. They are about to enter into an environment with adults, possibly with whom, they have had little or no contact. Elementary school students are about to enter a classroom with others children whom they may or may not know well. They will be in close proximity with these kids for the entire year in most cases – which carries with it specific social challenges. Secondary school students are about to be plunged into classes where it is common to have 25 or more students per class that change up to 7 times per day, depending on the bell schedule.

[quote]As a parent, we must not underestimate the power we possess to lead our children through the transition back to school.[/quote]

As a parent, we must not underestimate the power we possess to lead our children through the transition back to school.  We must listen to what our children are communicating through their words, play, and behaviors. We must be willing to help them sort through emotions that are connected to changing routines, the anticipation of connecting once again with (positive or negative) others, and meeting new people.

In order to do these things, we have to keep a level-head not growing frustrated with behavior or easily dismissing the challenges our kids are facing as “no big deal.” So, give your child more attention. Their emotional response and resulting behavior may be coming from the anticipation of “disconnecting and reconnecting.” Specifically, disconnecting and reconnecting to authority figures and peers. Although a parent may serve as a continual authority figure, the transition away from or inclusion of additional authority figures may require an adjustment.

Have you ever had a new boss that you’ve not met before or maybe an additional supervisor was added in your department to whom you were accountable in addition to your current supervisor? It’s kind of like that for kids – an adjustment is necessary. Let’s get practical. Dad, go ahead and submit paperwork to take the morning off for the first day of school spending your time wisely by having breakfast with your children, complimenting them on how nice they look, and encouraging them with words of affirmation, “You are ready for this, and you are going to do great this year!” Take your children to school, walk them to their classroom, and say “hello” to their teacher. Give your child a kiss, hug, high-five, or fist bump before you leave the classroom. Take pictures and make sure to come home from work genuinely interested in their first day of school – talk about it at the dinner table. As the family routine changes over the next few weeks, understand there might be some rough moments as your kids are adjusting to the new routine. That is normal. Things will even out. Before we know it, Fall Break, Thanksgiving, and Christmas will be upon us!

A couple more things. . .
Go to parent night. Join the PTA. Go to your kids’ play, science fair, or special event. You have a right and responsibility to make the school environment a place that you “frequent” often.  Your child will “do better” knowing that dad is not only interested in good grades but also wants to be involved in school activity. Don’t you remember your dad having lunch with you in the cafeteria? It was awesome!

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