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Doctors Sylvia and Milton Gearing have been serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1985 with compassion and professionalism.

The Gearings implement the latest in psychological research to stay at the cutting edge of their field and bring the most effective and life changing techniques to their clients.

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Back To School Blues - Aug 20, 2009

Back to School Blues

August 20, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

As North Texas children return to school next week, parents are hoping for a smooth transition from summer activities to a great school year. But instead of excitement and anticipation, many children are experiencing the "back to school blues" as summer transitions to fall. Here to shed some light on what parents can do to help is TXA 21 News Contributing Psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Q: Why can the transition from summer to school be so difficult for our kids?

Dr. Sylvia: In the mind of a child, summer should never end! The return of routine and responsibility will damper their moods temporarily but they must learn that school and hard work are a part of life. Here are the key factors to keep in mind as school begins.

New Experiences Create Anxiety: How your child handles change and the anxiety that comes with it determines how bumpy the reentry into school can be. A new teacher, new friends, a new classroom, and a new schedule all create anxiety because the child is confronted with novel circumstances that demand more of him. He's got to think faster, better and more effectively as he navigates the new environment.

Temperament and Personality: Temperament (which is physiologically determined) has a lot to do with how kids handle change and stress. For example, children who have a shy, slow to warm up temperament are going to retreat the first few days of school making a quick adjustment more difficult. Extroverted kids are going to "dive" right in and won't skip a beat. Effective parenting that "fits" your child's temperament style is essential. Be more patient with the slow to warm up kid and coach your extroverted child to enjoy school but behave in the classroom.

Major Family Changes Predict School Transition: Major family changes are tough on kids. Events such as separation, divorce, financial setbacks or relocation can affect how a child handles the first days of school. If a lot of change has occurred in their lives recently, they may just be more distracted. Coping skills may be "maxed out" and they may have trouble calming down.

Academic History: Last year's academic history affects this year's beginning beliefs about school. Returning to school can be daunting if your child had a hard time last year. Remind him that he can determine a better start during this new school year by trying harder and doing his best.

Q: When do the beginning of school jitters turn into something more serious?

Dr. Sylvia: After a couple of weeks, if your child is continuing to resist attending school or has prolonged bouts of tears before or after school, he may have a problem that needs to be addressed. Remember that problems with kids are usually progressive and develop gradually over time. A bad day once in a while isn't a big deal. However, we become concerned when there is a steady pattern of misbehavior, sadness and school resistance. Take behavior changes seriously since children are often unable to articulate what is bothering them. They rely on you to figure it out.

Q: Any advice for parents as we enter a new school year?

Dr. Sylvia:

Teach Calming and Soothing Skills: Parents are the most
important teachers in the world and when school anxiety overwhelms your child, you must stand strong. Do not become irritable because your child is struggling. Your job as a parent is to coach your child by helping him to restore perspective and resist catastrophic thinking. Don't dismiss his concern, but use logic to argue against his worst fears and restore a feeling of predictability and safety.

Rules are Vital--Be Clear and Concise: Many of us fail to communicate clear expectations and goals for our kids since we usually think those rules are obvious. Don't assume anything! Discuss clear expectations regarding friends, grades, school behavior, homework and morning and bedtime rituals.

Focus and Organize: The new school year and the new challenges that come with it make most kids feel out of control. Organize your child to reduce his anxiety. Assemble his school supplies, clarify his schedule, find his locker and organize his first week of clothes. Eliminate the unknowns as much as you can.

Be a Participating Parent: Nothing helps a child to feel safer and more secure than to have a parent participate in getting the new year started. Remain upbeat during the morning rituals and talk about how great things will be in his new classroom. Walk through the halls to his new classroom, meet his teacher, greet his friends and their parents and assure him that all is well.

Resist Helicopter Parenting: Do not over parent. Helicopter parenting is becoming a national epidemic and this parenting style has disastrous effects for our kids. Frequent rescuing prevents the child from learning how to resolve adversity, accept consequences and navigate his failures. Setbacks are a necessary part of life and make us stronger. Please allow your child to experience frustration and the proud accomplishments that comes from self-discipline and persistence.