Start the new school year on the right foot.
The middle of summer is a never-ending mix of excitement and relaxation for families. At least, that's the theory.
Realistically, family life is still stressful in the summer, especially if you're juggling camps, activities, work schedules and just getting dinner ready. But take heart, some of that will be alleviated when school starts again. (Settle down, parents; it's not cool to cheer in front of the kids.)
School is good for parents for many reasons: having a regular routine, knowing where your kids are, not scrambling for child care, and even providing relief from the pressure (mostly self-inflicted) to keep kids entertained. But the start of school often causes anxiety for parents whose child has a history of acting out; a reputation of troublemaking can doom those kids before the first bell.
Let's be clear that I'm not criticizing teachers. They're amazing people expected to do too much for anyone's good. They manage 20 to 30 kids at a time, so the idea of a ticking temper in their classroom causes anxiety for them, too. They don't hate your kid; they're just swamped by unrealistic expectations, and the school day no longer includes enough activities to help kids reset (such as recess and gym class).
When I advocate for clients at their schools, we often start with conversations about labeling. Everyone sees the world through the filter of previous experience, so if a teacher has a new student diagnosed with, say, ADHD, it's normal to assume that child will act like other ADHD students they've had. (Even my profession does that; the diagnosing manual is just a professional consensus that certain symptoms fit certain diagnoses.)
But labels become more than just a descriptor; people often assume the label defines someone's character. They refer to the “ADHD kid” as if this is all they are. But that changes when we also look for the strengths and abilities of “troublemaking” kids.
It helps to meet with your child's teacher before the school year begins. After all, who knows your kid better than you? You're the ultimate resource for what helps your child succeed. Help the teacher build a positive story for your child that counters the negative stories they've heard from others.
For example, one client's parents worried that past anger would keep their child from making friends in the new school year. But as we explored this, we realized that the child stood up for kids when they were bullied, and that he often reached out to classmates having a bad day. The parents shared those stories with the teacher, developing a narrative of the child as empathetic and a leader. He didn't start the year as someone with “anger issues”; he was instead helpful, kind and a good friend.
So notice the good things about your kids as they play in the pool. Observe the positive coping skills that keep them calm while playing in the backyard. Those details will help create a narrative that gets the school year off to a good start.
Carl Grody is a licensed independent social worker who works with families at Grody Family Counseling in Worthington.