Saturday, September 14, 2013

Dealing with back-to-school stress.

Most of you have heard me talk about my daughter, Lily. She's the one who says stuff like, "Mom, I love you, but we've GOT to talk about this cake I'm designing." This girl picked me flowers as she pranced home from school today. She doesn't mind playing superhero in public. Just the other day she and I had a conversation where she explained to me that there are only seven albino zebras in the world. She knew that because she reads the Nat Geo Kids magazine from cover to cover every month. My newly minted third grader (small heart clutch here) has just completed her second week in school. Usually, back to school means a few tears here and there as she adjusts to the new schedule. This year though... this year has been the worst yet.

 There's some new policies in place at her school and others which will be more strictly enforced. For instance, the tardy rule states that students must be standing with their classmates by the time the bell rings to be escorted inside. You're not in line, regardless of bell, you're tardy. Last year, Lily walked in, went to her room, and sat down. Tardies mean you go to the office and get a red slip to take to your teacher. The behavior plan has gone school wide and it's complicated. I'm all for color charts, since I'm about 7 months away from being a teacher. Really, though? SEVEN different colors? Isn't that a little much? I'm not really complaining, just concerned at some of the things other moms are saying.

Lily already has three tardies. She stops to talk to the crossing guard every morning after. She walks to the door while looking at whatever catches her fancy. She very nearly meanders her way to class. It's not because she doesn't like school. It's because she's easily fascinated by the world. Lily came home earlier this week in tears. Not just a few minutes and then the upset was forgotten. She was sobbing. "Mom, everything's different and I don't know how to do the right things. It's all so different, even the kid who bullied me last year doesn't bully me anymore."

Oh that broke my heart. If Lily is upset that she's not getting bullied, I know this is serious. How do you handle your child's pain? How do I teach her how to be responsible, to realize that change is inevitable, without making it sound like I'm mad at her for struggling?

"Mom, I'm so overwhelmed. I just want to cry."
"I don't want to be tardy, I just want to be absent."
"School isn't fun anymore."

The last one, more than anything else, worries me. It's kept me tossing and turning at night. I absolutely love learning. I love nerding out on how the world works. I like being able to answer random trivia questions. I love being in the classroom and I have a slight obsession with school supplies. I am 28 years old, and I still get a thrill when I see I got an A on a paper or a test. It's not the grade, it's the satisfaction that I've done well and I've achieved a new level of knowledge. I want all of this and more for my daughter. I have buckets full of pride that I'm considered a good student. If nothing else, I want my legacy to her to be that love of all the things there are to learn in the world.

She's arguing with teachers. She's crumpling her homework. She yells at her sister. She yells at me. She's pushing limits. While it is easy to get frustrated at first and angry at her, I can't. I can see the pattern. She doesn't feel any control. She's hurting.

I'm probably blowing this whole thing out of proportion. What mama doesn't do that when her kid is hurting? I've been at a loss as to how to help her avoid that anger and frustration so that she can get back to enjoying school. I tell her that it will be okay and she'll get the new schedule down. I tell her that the new color system gives her more chances to be good instead of bad. I tell her that she's a smarty pants and that she should be proud of herself. I tell her that third graders have more responsibility than second graders, which is cool because that means they get to do fun, new things. I tell her not to worry.

I have asked other parents for advice and read various articles on the internet. I've thought about the strategies I've learned for teaching when I have my own classroom. I've gathered a  few ideas on how to help Lily get back to her normal, happy self. Some are to spark her curiosity and get her excited about learning new things. Others are geared towards shifting schedules and setting a new routine.

1) I am going to take her to our local museum. She loves that place.
2) I'm going to find some cool science experiment we can do at home. I'm thinking rubber eggs or maybe even rainbow daisies. She'd get a kick out of flowers turning colors.
3) I'm going to get adjust bed time and wake up time. We'll leave 10 minutes earlier in the morning so she doesn't get another tardy.
4) We'll go pick out a new book.
5) I will talk to her teacher and her counselor and her principal if I have to so they are aware of the stress the environment at school is causing my child.
6) We'll take a break before doing homework. In the past, we always do homework right after school. I'm thinking she needs the break. It may not work out, but we'll try.
7) I'm going to revise and update our rewards and behavior rules at home. We have had the same ones on the fridge for a year now. It's time for something fresh.
8) I'm going to give her more choices. Even if it's just what we have for dinner or what song we should listen to on the stereo, I'm giving her the opportunity to feel like she has control.

Any other suggestions? I would love to hear your own experiences and how you've handled your child's stress. I don't think there can ever be enough good, heartfelt advice when it comes to making your babies happy. Thanks for struggling through this with me. For those of you who have offered advice, thank you. Sometimes parents need reminders that they're doing the best they can.

1 comment:

  1. Aww my heart broke reading about her struggles again. You are so amazing and humble to ask for advice. You truly love your daughter so much and it shows. I love that you are going to give her choices even in little things like songs you listen to. She and my son Jamison could be siblings! He has such a hard time with change. Even vacations are hard on him. But even sticking with a few things that are familiar for him like his bedtime schedule (I think I mentioned that before) really helps him. My older son doesn't need the schedule so much...but Jamison doesn't mind that he goes to bed at the same time each night or that we do other things a little different with fact he will tell us when its his bed time. I used to think I should be concerned if it bothers him that much to remind his parents, but I realized that is just him. He thrives off of a constant and that's ok. :) Loved this.


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