We are nearing the end of another summer. As I have seen children for physicals they have listed several fun or relaxing activities experienced this summer. I am pleased that many of them have enjoyed their time off from school. Now as they approach the first day, many emotions will be felt which might affect behavior both good and bad. In the book, “You Are Not Your Brain” by Dr.’s Swartz and Gladding, it teaches that it is important to help your children recognize their emotions but not be defined by them. They may be feeling anxiety toward the first day for many reasons. Teach them to recognize this anxiety as an emotion separate from who they really are. Then help them to feel more control by teaching them simple coping mechanisms and tools to lessen their anxiety.
In addition to understanding and better controlling their emotions, children experience conflicts in the school setting. Often these need to be resolved on their own. These conflicts may involve homework assignments or problems with other students. I would encourage parents and guardians to talk about these types of conflicts with the children before they arise. Of course, not every circumstance can be predicted. However, we know our children and their triggers for stress. Help them find solutions to these potential problems before they occur. For example, if Sheila struggles with wetting her underpants when distracted, then teach her to establish a schedule so she will empty her bladder regularly before she wets on accident. If Jacob, year after year, struggles to remember the big projects due during the year, then provide him some tools to calendar these items.
One week previous to the beginning of the school year, encourage a regular schedule. Help them to get to bed at a reasonable time (stop those summer time hours.) Remove their devices from their rooms and shut them off at least 45 minutes before they are to be sleeping. Make sure they are establishing regular nutritious habits. They need that brain well nourished and rested prior to school starting so they feel at least slightly prepared for the great unknown of the next school year. I highly recommend regular exercise as well. I encouraged my patients to exercise at least once per day and to do something that makes them sweat or increases their heart rate up from their normal. Drink plenty of water as well.
As school resumes and the work begins, if children are struggling with any of these items then please make an appointment with us at Thrive Pediatrics. We are here to help you identify and manage these various concerns. We want each child to learn at their greatest potential and safely reach a successful independence.
Dr. Steven A. Smith, MD