Beat the Back to School Blues By Dr. Debra Kissen

It is once again that dreaded time of year…no it is not tax season…it is back-to-school season. It is time to put away the beach chairs, store the outdoor furniture and get organized for the upcoming school year.

Of course summer, like all good things, must come to an end. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. Our kids need to get down to business and focus on the task of learning and developing work ethics. Life is not all fun and games and the sooner that children learn there is a time to play and a time to work hard — the better.

So, I think we all agree that that school is good and we don’t want our kids to become fun loving party animals, but instead effective human beings, right? Unfortunately awareness and belief in the fundamental truth that kids need to go to school does little to ease the blow of transition from play to school mode. Make the back-to-school period less stressful and chaotic. Implement a few of the parenting tactics below:

1. Add Structure Back In
Begin to add more structure to the day for the week or 2 leading up to the first day of school. If you are driving a car at 70 miles and hour, it is best to not slam on the breaks but instead to slowly come to a stop.

2. Back to Normal Bedtime
Tighten up bedtime routines and wake your kids up close to wake-up time for school. Sleep hygiene is critical for all of us. Parents need to get a good night of sleep just as badly as their children. (So, for me, I am going to have to break my bad summertime habit of Real Housewives marathons once the kids are sleeping soundly in their beds).

3. Flex the Brain Muscle
Schedule family reading and learning moments, where all family members practice “putting their thinking caps on” for a few minutes and exercise their brain muscle. Explain just like they need lots of exercise and good nutrition to be healthy, they also have to feed their brain snacks of interesting information and new knowledge.

4. Get Excited!
Talk to your kids about any of your positive back-to-school memories. Create a sense of excitement about the upcoming year – and all that’s to come!

5. Understand and Be Patient with Your Child
Each child reacts to returning to school differently. Some will have a smooth and uneventful return, while others will experience some bumps on the back-to-school road. It is impossible to predict with perfect accuracy what challenges may come up for your child. If you know your child is slow to warm up and struggle with transitions, it is fair to assume the beginning of anything will be a bit rocky. The good news is that sooner rather than later, your child will get comfortable with their new routine and open up to the experience.

If your child is struggling excessively with returning to school and exhibiting symptoms such as: refusing to get dressed, refusing to leave their room, claiming to be sick, experiencing stomach pains and headaches that can’t be medically diagnosed then it may be necessary to contact a mental health professional who can be of assistance in setting your child up for a successful school year.

Debra Kissen, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist, is the Clinical Director of the Light on Anxiety Treatment Center of Chicago. Dr. Kissen belongs to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and she is a member of its Public Education Committee. She has a special interest in mindfulness-based treatment for anxiety disorders and has presented her research at many conferences.

In her practice Dr. Kissen provides offers cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to children, adolescents and adults with a focus on anxiety and stress-related disorders, including OCD, PTSD, panic disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias, separation anxiety disorder, compulsive skin picking, and trichotillomania.

Debra Kissen, Ph.D., M.H.S.A.
Clinical Director
Light on Anxiety Treatment Center
1300 West Belmont, Suite 312
Chicago‎ IL‎ 60657

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