Back to School – Getting Ready

Whether the summer was jampacked  with camp, play dates,  outings, and other fun activities,  or filled with complaints about  being bored with nothing to do,  kids often have a tough time making  the back-to-school transition.  It can be especially challenging  when balancing work and a busy  family life. 

And while the start of a new  school year is exciting for most  kids it can also bring with it a  spike in anxiety, even for kids  who are usually pretty easy going,  so it is not uncommon to see a rise  in some difficult behaviors from  your child including (by age):  

  • Toddler and Pre-School Age:  increased tantrums, separation  anxiety, regression (may seem  like they are going backwards in  their development but it is usually  temporary) with toilet training,  change in sleep schedule/bedtime  problems, increased crying and  power struggles, not following  directions.  
  • Elementary Age: talking  back, disobedience, fighting and  aggression, worries, anxiety,  nightmares and sleep schedule  changes, bed-wetting, irritable  mood, lying, fighting with siblings,  difficulty with friends at  school, and resistance to school  routine.  
  • Middle/High School: irritable  mood, “rude” and disrespectful  behavior, power struggles,  increased anxiety, shift in focus  to peer/friendships, and talking  back.  

We all want our kids to lead  happy and fulfilled lives and at  any given time we are doing our  best to make that happen. Sometimes  tips and guidance from outside  sources can help. Actively  participating in parenting education,  formal or informal can yield  strong benefits for both parents  and their children. After all, as a  parent, who wouldn’t want their  child to calmly follow instructions,  do well at school, make  friends easily and feel good about  themselves? A 2016 review of  parent education programs from  the Wilder Foundation found that  children of parents who participate  in parenting education often  demonstrate higher levels of  empathy, sharing, and helping  others, and have less destructive  behaviors such as aggression, delinquency,  and hyperactivity.  

According to the Triple P Positive  Parenting Program, one of  the few parenting programs based  on evidence and research, parents  who use positive parenting  say they feel more confident, less  stressed, and have less conflict  with their partner over parenting  issues.  

Triple P’s approach to positive  parenting is based on some  very simple ideas that have been  shown to help make raising children  easier. There are hundreds  of evaluation papers and randomized  controlled trials that show  Triple P can work for most families  – across different cultures, socio-  economic groups and in many  different family structures. Some  key highlights:  

  • Triple P reduces problem  behavior in children and improve  parents’ wellbeing and parenting  skills.  
  • In communities where Triple  P is widely available, (which it is  in NC) children have fewer behavioral  and emotional problems.  
  • Parents using Triple P say  they are less stressed, less depressed,  and don’t use harsh discipline.  

Here are some Triple P Positive  Parenting Strategies that may  help with Back to School:  

Establishing a Bedtime Routine,  including a regular bedtime,  a child friendly checklist that the  child uses each night to prepare  for bed, and preparing the child  ahead of time each night before  the routine, praising specific behaviors  the next morning helps. 

 To avoid talking back and  fighting, Triple P suggests a  “Planned ignoring for undesirable  behavior.” When your child  demonstrates an undesired behavior  such as tantrums or talking  back, Triple P suggests ignoring  the behavior entirely until the  tantrum stops. This technique is  used is specific situations with  the coaching of your Triple P provider.

For teens with anxiety, talk  openly about feelings and how  to deal with upsetting events,  encourage teenagers to develop  problem-solving skills (which  your Triple P provider can help  with one an individual basis). 

For stronger communication  with your teens, especially about  fear-based situations, engaging  in “Casual Conversation” and  listening to their fears may not  sound like a “big deal” to youbut  it feels like a bid deal to them. 

Manage your own emotions  – The most important lesson in  Triple P is to manage your own  emotions, stay calm, set a positive  example, and give positive  attention.  Triple P is a parenting program  but it doesn’t tell you how to be  a parent. It’s more like a toolbox  of ideas.

If you or someone you  know is faced with parenting  challenges or would like to learn  how to encourage good behavior  and manage the challenging  behaviors, please call 704-364-  6594. Jewish Family Services’  clinical therapists are credentialed  in Triple P. They may use these  and other strategies to help get  you through the tough times.