Summer is officially over when the fall equinox occurs on Sept. 23 of this year. Cooler temperatures are just around the corner, as our nights become longer and our days become shorter. If, however, you ask my teenagers when their favorite season ends, they will say it happens when school begins. Literally overnight, the carefree days of summer morph into the daily routine of a scholastic schedule.
The beginning of the academic year is a hectic period of adjustment for all family members. It is also normal for most students to experience back-to-school stress. A good start to the semester, however, will benefit a student’s attitude, confidence and performance long after the opening bell has rung. Creating routine is the best way to alleviate adolescent anxieties.
Many students struggle to understand the school day starts when the alarm clock rings, and the day ends when their head hits the pillow. Discuss with your children the importance of efficient mornings that allow time for a healthy breakfast. A nourished body creates a ready-to-learn brain.
Also help your child to develop a consistent after-school study routine. Some youngsters prefer to complete homework before relaxing, while others want an after-school break. Have your son or daughter commit to the process that works best and build evenings around that schedule. Consistency will ensure academic responsibilities are successfully met.
Extracurricular activities are important, too. Many kids want to join everything, which creates stress from struggles to meet classroom demands and after-school requirements. Others, unfortunately, prefer to be disengaged, often resulting in an unmotivated and lethargic student. Parents should establish realistic expectations and encourage their child to participate in at least one activity. Upfront conversations about how to manage homework, school activities and free time will set the tone for a balanced schedule and a healthy lifestyle.
Last, revisit family routines as the school year begins. Make a commitment to have at least two family dinners every week. Also, pledge to spend quality alone time with each child on a weekly basis. A short stop at Starbucks on the way to school can be a powerful relationship-building time. All kids value family, even if they won’t tell you.
When life gets hectic, it is a parent’s job to slow things down. Consistency in routine provides structure so a child can experience both academic and personal success. Families that set a positive tone in September also are building a strong foundation for responsible decision-making in the future. Good grades are important, but developing quality character and a positive attitude will bring even greater rewards.
Prior to going into private practice as a psychotherapist and learning-disabilities specialist, Russell Hyken, Ph.D., Ed.S., M.A., LPC, NCC, worked for more than 15 years as an English teacher, school counselor and school administrator. Visit him online at ed-psy.com.