Pointers from a mom in the trenches.
Marilyn Kentz: As the hot sun sets on the first day of August, moms all over America begin their silent countdown to the first day of school. This is when time cruelly slows down for our well-intentioned nurturer. A few months before, she began the break with enthusiastic plans to entertain and keep her cubs busy -- pool, crafts, beach, biking, camping, movies, sleepovers, church day camps and play dates -- and yet, by the first week of August, the little guys still manage the phrase, "I'm bored." By the third week of the final summer month, siblings increase their bickering, little ones cling to her legs, whining abounds, and something as simple as going to the grocery store becomes a tiresome obstacle. It is at this point that she becomes prone to a bladder infection because the needy demands of those born from her loins give Mommy no time to go to the bathroom. It's no wonder our trooper gets excited when the uniform catalogue arrives.
Young kids are foolishly oblivious to the passing of time. Some of the older ones will experience their first awareness that summer (and life) is too short. The notion of sitting in a classroom, copying down the homework assignment, is a frightening one. The idea of them NOT doing just that is the stuff moms' nightmares are made of. Homeschoolers must have amazing mettle similar to that of Wonder Woman.
As the countdown shortens and the shadows lengthen, below are 5 behaviors moms can adopt to get the kids (and themselves) off to a good start.
• Act "as if" -- Your behavior and attitude are more powerful than you give yourself credit for. If you act as if they are going to be fine, they will pick up on your vibe and become comfortable with going back to school.
• Never feel sorry for a child because it gives him a reason to feel sorry for himself. Adlerian psychologist Rudolf Dreikurs coined this compelling phrase. Following this principle will make all the difference in your child's world. If he should be assigned to a teacher with a reputation for being hard, the last thing he needs is for you to confirm it with your own personal anxiety. That doesn't mean you should not have empathy. In fact, letting your child know that when you were his age, you were reluctant to go back to school, but found that once you got there it was more fun than you had remembered, is an effective tool.
• "You can handle it" is a tried-and-true phrase that disarms even the most complaining of children. Said with a soft and confident tone, you are giving your child a mantra he can draw upon during any stressful situation -- even in his adult life.
• Limited choices give you the capacity to stop a power struggle quickly. "Would you like to wear the blue or the white shirt on your first day?" "Would you like to buy your lunch or make it?" Using limited choices works great on younger ones and can, on occasion, even neutralize a feisty teenager.
• Back-to-school contract -- It's effective if you sit with your homework-burdened child and make a contract that you both can live with. Employ reasonable consequences if the contract is broken. For example, if a grade drops below a C, a tutor will become part of his after-school world until the grade is brought up. You have to do your part as well. Add in that you won't nag or remind him to do his homework as long as his grades are above a C or more. Be specific and creative. Let the kids help design the contract and be sure to follow through.
As school days approach and you begin to rely on the occasional martini to get you past Labor Day, don't fret -- begin practicing the 5 tips and revel in the fact that in no time your family will be out of the house and you can have more than 2 minutes to yourself.
|Marilyn Kentz is the brunette half of the '90s comedy duo "The Mommies" and author of "A Ten-Step Guide to Fearless Aging."|