DR. CELESTE CATANIA-OPRIS, PH.D., LMFT
Another year has flown by and summer is coming to an end. It is time for kids to head back to school, which means buying school supplies, back-to-school clothing, and chaotic schedules. As the new school year starts, consider discussing certain expectations you may have of your child for this school year. Typically, children tend to struggle with maintaining their behavior, friendships, and grades, so exploring these topics may prove to be beneficial.
Children sometimes act in ways that make us say, “What were they thinking?” For instance, when children do not have many friends, they may try to fit in with the other students by talking back to a teacher or allowing another student to cheat off of their paper during a test. From the outside perspective, it appears that the child behaved inappropriately, when in reality, all the child wanted was to fit in and to be accepted. This does not excuse the child’s behavior, but it offers an understanding as to what may be going on in a child’s mind. Perhaps discuss how you expect your child to behave at school and remind them what is appropriate and inappropriate, essentially giving them a heads up.
This may sound odd, but from time to time you may need to redefine what a friend is to your children. For instance, let them know that a friend is not someone who makes us feel badly about ourselves. In addition, a friend does not intentionally tease us to make others laugh at our expense. By the same token, as a friend, they too should not treat others in this manner. We expect our children to make good choices, but as parents, we need to play an active role in regards to whom our children are spending time with and how they interact with these individuals as well.
The older your children become, the more is expected of them academically. This pertains to more school work, more testing, and more teachers. All teachers have their own teaching style, so learning what each teacher expects of your child will help your child do well in that class. These types of conversations are helpful to have with your children and their teachers in order to alleviate any concerns or misunderstandings. Oddly enough, one of the main issues children deal with is having difficulty believing in their own capabilities, so reassuring them of their strengths will help tremendously and help them to succeed scholastically.
Discuss these expectations and get feedback from your child. Sometimes you may be surprised what frightens or causes your child anxiety. Perhaps there is another student who your child has had an issue with the year before, causing your child to worry about having to interact with that student again. It is also possible that your child may have heard that their new teacher is “hard” or “mean” resulting in your child feeling intimidated by simply entering their classroom on the first day of school.
As a parent you have the right to dictate your expectations. Still, make sure that these expectations are realistic. For instance, if your children play sports, it may be difficult for them to balance school work, a social life, and family time. Try to offer your thoughts and suggestions with an open mind, even when you and your child disagree on a particular topic. This allows children to feel validated and heard, in turn, strengthening the parent-child relationship.
In the end, the goal is to have a successful school year. There will be times when you feel overwhelmed and simply exhausted as a parent, but seeing your child succeed and flourish makes it all worth it. Best of luck to all children this school year!
Celeste Catania-Opris, Ph.D., LMFT, offers therapeutic services to individuals, couples, and families. Contact her at 954-655-0718; www.TherapyForModernHousewives.com.