The real must-haves for back-to-school

 In Opinion

Some parents are running around in circles this week trying to get organized for sending the kids back to school. It is a lot of work to set up after-school care, plan lunches that kids will actually eat, and hunt out deals on new backpacks and clothing. And some kids have a pretty long list of things they think they need, as well as a whining, pleading, desperate tone to their voice when they are talking about it. This is the time of year when you wonder if you have raised a spoiled, entitled, little brat. And the answer is probably not – you just have a very anxious kid on your hands. Imagine if we all had two months off (oh yes!) and then suddenly got thrust back into a crowded, high pressure working environment with a new team, a new boss, maybe even a new workplace.  For most of us this would be terrifying. And we would sure hope that our organization’s leadership team had come up with some change management strategies to prepare us for the transition.

Often the way we “prepare” our kids for the change of going back to school is to buy them things.  And we are inadvertently teaching them that buying things will alleviate anxiety. If your child is being “a brat” about needing the latest and most expensive pair of running shoes you can likely guess that his or her fears and worries are pretty high, in fact, the more whining, the higher the anxiety. Will I look right?  Will I fit in? Am I cool enough? Am I good enough?  Recognizing this is the first step to a cheap solution, because the good news is that we don’t have to spend more money to deal with this. In fact, spending more money will be counter-productive because every kid knows deep inside that if they do not have their own self-confidence, everyone will see through the Air Jordans.  

We can help our kids prepare for school by building self-confidence in their own ability to handle that change.  If you engage in a quick internet search of how to help people manage the change process, buying them shoes is not on the list! Taking time to listen, demonstrating your concern, fixing what you can, helping them have a sense of control, etc. are the strategies that are suggested. The real “must-haves” for going back to school are your time and attention as a parent. So when you are out at the mall this weekend, know that the time you spend having a bite to eat in the food court talking about their worries and fears, and helping them develop solutions to their social anxieties is worth more than any pair of shoes that money can buy. Your child’s self-confidence will grow if you take the time to listen because it lets them know they are important. Their sense of competence and control will increase when you help them develop ideas for how to get involved in school. And the whining will decrease. Eventually!

Liz van Ryn, M.Sc. RP is a psychotherapist in private practice in the Creemore area. You can find her at www.creeksidetherapy.ca

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