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Ease the Pain

08/31/2015 12:58 ● Published by Sandy Kauten

One morning a few weeks ago, something changed. We all felt it… with afternoon temps still in the 90s, mornings became crisp, and our thoughts shifted to “back-to-school”.  As adults, we’re accustomed to that sense of relief; coupled with wistfulness as another season passes. On the other hand, for our children, this is still new - and combined with realities of schedule and sleep changes, it’s not uncommon for a transitions from summer to fall to wreak havoc on a household’s emotional health and household routines. The good news?  You can be ready for the big transition by taking practical steps to ease the transition.

1.      Expect chaos. No how well you prepare, there WILL be surprises and bumps. Allow for this by leaving wiggle room for scheduling bloopers, forgotten schoolbags and tardy carpools. Scheduling yourself too tightly will usually backfire.

2.      Be honest. Remember your first day back to school in first grade? Seventh? As a senior? Each year brought its own joys and worries. Share your memories and set the tone for your student to be open about the year’s hopes and fears.

3.      Control the controllable. There will be plenty of surprises, so nail down the basics. Set out clothes, school bags and make lunches the night before and you’ll remove a whole set of factors the next morning!

4.      Smooth the way. Help transition from summer schedules to school hours by implementing sleep, hygiene, and morning routines a week or two before the start of school.  This is difficult to sell, but hugely important.

5.      Be real. Speaking of schedules, each child has a unique sense of time. One might move through tasks quickly while others moves at a snail’s pace. You’ll be most successful if you allow for this in your planning. Slowpokes need to get up earlier, not as a punishment, but to ease the pressure for everyone else in the household.

6.      Set goals and rewards. The fact is, work isn’t much fun without a reward of some sort. For you, it’s a paycheck or knowledge of a job well done. For your kids, identify goals and meaningful rewards. The goals can be scholastic or personal and rewards should be decided together with your child.

7.      Build your team. Call on all family members to help make the household run smoothly. Together, decide how each person can contribute to the cause. Little ones can take on basic tasks, like feeding the dog... Older ones can help with dishes.

8.      Pause for victories. Make the next thing on your ‘to do’ list wait while you celebrate small wins with your kids. Your full attention is all it takes to buoy your student’s confidence.

9.       Make time for fun. Summer fun grows out of our determination to relax and to spend time together. Identify one of the regular activities that made things great this summer, and keep it going. Family walks, games and other positive interactions don’t need to end just because the temperature drops.

All of these suggestions share one thing in common: Perspective. There’s something about summer that helps us stay calm and take in the special moments. Anything that helps you maintain that ability is something worth hanging on to – no matter what the season.

 -- This guidance was gathered by the professional counseling staff of mental health professionals at Eugene Therapy and its Corvallis office, Oregon Counseling. The team provides the mental health support many of us need at one time or another. Specialties include teen and family support, parenting, anxiety and depression management, eating disorders, couples counseling, trauma coping and recovery, grief and loss, substance abuse and other challenges.

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