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Back to School Means Back to Rules: Helping Your Kids Keep Their Cool

Getting back to school requires a lot of preparation. As a parent you realize that it is important to transition your kids back to the school year routine. Your kids however, may be resistant to giving up their lazy days of summer. They might not quite agree with your vision of smoothly transition back to the school year mindset. In fact they may experience these attempts some what like an abrupt flick of a switch. One day it is one way, the next day it is another.

The way they see it:

Last week they were allowed to stay up to watch that television program. This week they can't

The way you see it:

They need their sleep to get ready for school. They can DVR that program.

The way they see it:

Last week you let them lounge around the house in their pajamas. This week you keep nagging them to get dressed.

The way you see it:

They should get dressed because there is  much to do before school starts.

The way they see it:

Last week you were okay with their messy room. This week you are walking around doing the ‘white glove’ test.

The way you see it:

A clean room is the first step toward getting organized. Besides, maybe they will find last year's backpacks in there.

The way they see it:

Last week they could stay out late even during the week. This week, they can only go out on weekends and they have a curfew.

The way you see it:

The summer is over. They need to get back to the school year routine.

And the list goes on….

So, how can you help them experience the transition a bit smoother? Here are some thoughts:

Let them know changes are coming. Before you switch up the rules, sit down with your kids and discuss the plan. Encourage them to offer their suggestions about preparing for back to school.

Be specific. Let them know when the rules will be changing over.

Writing it down makes it real. It is important to post the rules in a common area. This should reduce conflict, concern and disagreement regarding the changes.

Be patient. The end of summer can be difficult. For your kids it is like going back to work after a long vacation. Keep calm, cool and collected yet firm, the switch over will go as smooth as possible.

Emphasize the positive by starting a back to school tradition (if you don’t already have one).  In our house we start the school year off with a ‘baking frenzy.’

Of course back to school brings so many positives with it, highlighting a few of these will help summer seem like a mere memory.



Locker Anxiety: Part of the Middle School Transition

I know. It sounds kind of ridiculous- locker anxiety. If you ask a group of middle school students what they worry about most though many of them will talk about about having to deal with a locker. How do I know? I have been told by the kids.  Middle school is the first time many of them have to deal with a locker. This task symbolizes the kind of independence and organization that is expected in middle school.

Specifically, middle-schoolers say that they worry about the following:

1.) That they will be unable to open their locker with the combination.

2.) That they will have trouble finding their locker for the first time and have trouble remembering where it is.

3.) That they will not have enough time in between classes to get to their lockers without being late to class.

The good news is that you can  help ease this type of stress by talking with your tween about the related issues.

Here’s what I suggest:

1.) Engage your child in  conversation about the topic. It is helpful to lay out their possible fears or anxieties. You could open with something like, ”I remember how nervous I was my first day of junior high. I was so worried that I would not be able to find my locker and work the combination.”  

2.) Suggest that once your tween finds her locker for the first time, she quickly write down the specific location. A quick map is helpful or just a few helpful clues. If her locker is near the science labs for encourage her to make note of that. Explain that writing it down will help her remember.

3.) Once he gets his schedule and is aware of the location in the building of each class then offer to go over it with him to figure out when he will have time to go to his locker. If, for example, he has several classes that are far away from each other and his locker then suggest that he avoid stopping at his locker and carry those books with him. 

Taking the time to discuss these concerns may relieve more stress than you can imagine. They will be locker pros in no time!


Tween Task: Making the Transition from Elementary to Middle School


The transition from elementary to middle school is both exciting and anxiety provoking. These days many school districts do a nice job of preparing your tweens for the change in structure through school visits and orientation events. How can you as a parent help to ensure that the transition from the nurturing environment of elementary school to the “ready for business” atmosphere of middle school is a smooth one? To begin with, it is important to highlight the differences and understand the other elements which affect your tween’s transition:


Elementary School                    Vs.

Middle  School

One main class often one teacher

Individual classes for each subject, no main teacher

Teacher assistance with organization

Students responsible for own organization

Cubby/hook for belongings in classroom

Locker somewhere in the school

Teacher escorts students to ‘specials’ in school

Students expected to make their own way to each class

Steady development and growth toward pre-puberty


Consistent academic support/group work

Increased focus on academics and independent work

Some homework-parent participation recommended

Increase in volume and level of difficulty of homework-independent work with some parent support recommended.

Smaller school size.

Larger school. Often several schools combine in to one middle school.


With the differences identified, here are some ways you can help your tween make an optimal adjustment to his new environment:

1.) Ensure that your tween is as organized as can be. The right school supplies can do the trick. Work with her to label each subject folder and create notebook sections for each class. If organization does not come easily to your tween a color coding system can be quite color for each subject including a separate notebook and folder. These visual cues can do the trick for even the most disorganized tween.

2.) Do at least one school walk through with your tween prior to the first day of school. If your tween is particularly anxious about his ability to negotiate the building then a few trips may be helpful. If your tween has a friend or older sibling already in the school, ask him to be the tour guide.

3.) As puberty kicks in, your tween may be feeling a bit awkward due to changes in his/her body. The transition to a new and larger school may add to the discomfort. Positive reinforcement can go a long way now. Find simple ways to help build your tween’s confidence and self-esteem. Ask her to help you at home and be sure to compliment her when she does. A littlepositive reinforcement can go a long way.

4.) Encourage your tween to tackle his homework independently. Let him know that you are available to offer some guidance and support. If he is overwhelmed and frustrated by the work, encourage him to devise a plan to address this. For example, attend after school extra help. It is important to be aware that it is not uncommon for tweens to experience some achievement loss when transitioning from elementary school to middle school. Once your tween adjusts to her new environment and develops a study approach that works for her she should do just fine.

5.) Finally, middle school can be an exciting new experience. Encourage your tween to talk with you about her thoughts and expectations. This can not only be a great bonding experience, but an opportunity for your tween to talk out some of the stress often related to making that transition from elementary school to middle school. It’s hard to believe but she is a big girl now!


Middle School Mayhem: Helping Your Tween Manage the Bus Ride Banter


Since we spend so much time focusing on what goes on at school- we often forget to consider that for some tweens it is the bus ride to and from school that represents the hardest part of the day. If your tween is just starting Middle School, then it is possible that not only is he going to a bigger school but he may be riding the bus for the first time. 

Riding the bus may have pros and cons. On the positive side- riding the bus gives your tweens the opportunity to get ‘their head in the game’ before they get to school. If your tween is not a morning person then all of the action on the bus is sure to wake her up. In addition, the bus is an opportunity for kids to hone their social skills and catch up on the daily buzz. Unfortunately, some tweens see the bus ride as an opportunity to complete homework assignments. This is not something we recommend. The bus ride, however, can provide a chance for your kids to talk to their peers about a particularly hard and/or confusing homework assignment.

The bus ride to school can also be the common bully’s favorite headquarters. Trapped in a contained environment with little adult supervision (barring the bus driver who is hopefully focused on the road) the bus ride to and from school can provide a bully with optimal conditions under which to tease and terrorize fellow students.

Talking with your middle schoolers about the pros and cons of their bus ride can provide them with welcome relief. It is especially helpful to talk about this before the first day of school. If your tween is particularly sensitive or anxious to changes or new situations then a brief  ‘prep’ talk could really help ease some potential stress.

Here are a few suggestions regarding your ‘prep’ talk:

1.)    Review bus pick-up time and location even if you plan to walk or drive your child to the bus stop on the first day. The more information you provide them, the more in control and empowered they will feel.

2.)    Go over the names of other kids with whom your child will be riding the bus. Knowing that there will be some familiar faces can help ease anxiety.

3.)    Talk about the bus environment. This is one instance in which discussing your own experience may be helpful. Sometimes it is the noise level that throws first time bus riders off. If your tween is particularly sensitive or anxious, the intensity of the noise level and apparent chaos can make them feel vulnerable.

4.)    Discuss a plan in case your tween experiences or is witness to bus ride bullying or teasing. This provides your child with a clear picture of what she can do in such a situation. This also sends your tween the message  that you not only want to hear about these types of situations but that you will support him and help him find effective solutions to such circumstances.

 Now that you have discussed the bus ride, about that locker….


Important Tips for Traveling with your Tween

Because your tween is caught between childhood and the teen years, his likes and dislikes, frustrations and fancies can at times be difficult to gauge. As a parent you may find yourself exasperated and confused.  For years he has counted down the days to family vacation at the beach this year however, he seems less than pleased by the proposition. He tells you he wants to go to camp with all his other friends. “Camp,” you wonder, “since when does he like camp?” The last time you tried to send him he cried so much the first week you had to dis-enroll him. Okay, that was three years ago, but still.

Vacationing with a tween can be challenging, that is why a little bit of preparation can go a long way. One of the most confusing issues with which you have to contend is that your tween is developing in many area including: cognitively, emotionally, socially and of course physically. The rate at which your tween develops from realm to realm varies from tween to tween. This is why your tween may insist that you keep a safe distance away when chaperoning her and her friends at the mall but still insists on having a night light in her room because she is scared of the dark.

Family vacations are a great way to bond with your kids. What follows are a few quick tips to ensure that traveling with your tween is all about fun, not about frustration.

1.)Encourage her participation in planning. Your tween is at that age when she wants to have more influence is the decisions being made on her behalf. You offer yours an empowering experience when you engage her in the process of planning a vacation. Even if your destination is pre-determined, such as your annual trip to Grandma’s house, offering her a say in what you will do while there can contribute to a smoother trip. Put simply, your tween is less likely to argue or complain if she has a hand in determining the destination or at least what you will do while there.

2.)Compromise when possible. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. This is especially true when the person is your tween. In order to cut down on the complaining and conflict, consider meeting your tween at least part way when/if he doesn’t agree with the activities you have scheduled. Sometimes giving in just a little will go a long way.

3.)Know your tween’s limits. Translation, know when to call it quits. Although you may have had the best intentions when you laid out the daily plan, sometimes too much activity can push her to the limit. The result is a cranky and frustrated child who is frankly no fun to be around. No one knows your tween like you do. When you notice that she is sending signals that she has had enough, it is time to take a break.

4.)Know your limits. There is much truth in the saying “To thine own self be true.” It is important to be in tune with yourself. Your vacation should be just that. If you find yourself feeling tired, overwhelmed, or even frustrated, it is time to take a break. You have worked hard for your vacation; make sure you enjoy it.

5.)Flexibility is the key to calm. Although you may have put a lot of time, energy, and thought into planning your vacation, when you are travelling with a tween, flexibility rules. Your tween is at that age when her reactions to things can be quite variable. Although the water park may have sounded like a great idea at the time, you may have to switch set if your daughter refuses to put on a bathing suit. While you may perceive her as being stubborn or insolent, she may actually feel shy or embarrassed about her developing body. Sure your son loved surfing last year but his lack of confidence in his ability to stay up on the board may overcome his willingness to try. Instead of getting annoyed or upset, encourage your tween to help you develop an alternative plan.

6.)Avoid over scheduling. Vacations are short and the time seems to go by so quickly. Toward this end, your natural inclination may be to pack as much fun into one day as possible. Pace yourself. Your family is better served when they have time to actually enjoy what they are doing. Vacation should not feel like work. You want your tween to feel tired at the end of the day, not irritable or cranky because he feels like you pushed him too hard.

7.)Forget about frustration, have fun! Vacation is all about enjoyment. Traveling with a tween can be challenging at times. Her wants and desires can be both unpredictable and variable. Try not to get upset or overwhelmed. Take a deep breath and take a step back when needed. A positive attitude is indeed catchy. Let go the letdowns. You may just have to accept that you might not get a chance to see those ruins or take in that show. We all know that when a tween is in a negative mood, the whole family can suffer. Try not to your tween’s attitude ruin your vacation.

Laughter is a good anecdote for opposition. Commit yourself to rest, and relaxation. A good mood is catchy.

Traveling with your tween can be trying at times. With a little ingenuity and a lot of patience however, you can ensure that your family vacation is a good time for all.