Dr. Corinne Masur
No matter how well you plan, when it’s finally time to actually send your children to school in the fall (for the 1st time or the 10th time) it always comes as a shock! Vacation is over; the hubbub and the rushing around of the school year are upon you! And WHO is ready to start THAT all over again?
This week in our parent group, we heard a repeated refrain: the fall rush takes a toll on both parents and children.
Several mothers commented that the first day of school for their new kindergarteners and first graders went better than expected. Their children were excited and while there might have been a few whines or tears at drop off, things went quite well. It was the AFTER school reactions that perplexed our parents. One mom reported that her son was in kind of a dissociated state after school – he didn’t seem to know exactly what he wanted to do or not do. He just wandered around the house for a while, refusing a snack, refusing suggestions about what to play. Another child was just so difficult, whining and demanding more and more from his mother.
What was going on?
As the discussion progressed we started to understand how much it takes out of children – and this is for children of ALL ages – when they have to transition to school after the long, less structured summer time. Many children use so much energy to behave well at school for those first few days and weeks that they have very little left once they get home. They may need down time or they may need mommy time or they may seem irritable and angry.
One mother who was studying for an important professional exam sighed and said, “But we DO have mommy time at bedtime! In the afternoon, why can’t she understand that I have to study?”
It was hard for this mom to take in, but the time her second grade daughter needed her the most during these first few weeks was directly after school. She needed a little extra babying. In fact, she actually asked to be carried like a baby. For the 7 or 8 year old, acting like a big second or third or fourth grader all day is a HUGE effort and some regression may happen once school is over and the child is home again. Children can be depleted after a day at school, especially at the beginning of the year.
Talk to your child when this happens. Tell them that you know it’s hard to be good all day. Allow a break before doing homework. Try to be available to just be with your child – even if you only have 15 minutes before starting dinner or doing your own work. You may find that this little bit of extra effort can refuel your child to go with his or her day!