NOTE: I got a lot of requests to republish this 2009 response to a frantic parent. So here goes!
Dear Dr. Levister: I’m stressing out. My kids are back in school.
I lost my job. I can’t even afford basic school supplies. What can I do to tame the anxiety? G. T.
Dear G.T.: As kids every year before my brother Harold and I returned to school, my Dad would remind us of an age-old wisdom: The 7 P’s: “Prior Prudent Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance”.
We got sick of hearing his advice but it left us few excuses for being unprepared for success in or out of the classroom.
Your best defense against anxiety is prior preparation. The more excited and confident you are about the new school year the more your children will be.
This year back to school pressures real imagined, range from parents shunning immunizations based on undocumented claims of autism to the high cost of basic school supplies, however an exciting time, it can be fraught with anxiety.
Make a checklist: Compile your kid’s medical information. Stock up on children’s medications. Meet with the school nurse. Make sure their immunization record is current.
Steer clear of rumors that certain vaccinations cause mental health problems. Ask your child’s physician to help you sort out fact from fiction. Put your children to bed earlier. Doctors recommend children in first to fifth grades get as much 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night. Lack of sleep can affect children’s ability to resolve conflicts peacefully and can hamper their ability to learn.
Make a list of school supplies your children need versus what they want. This will help them organize and prioritize. For instance replacing a slightly worn backpack when money is tight is unwise. Find out what resources are available for school supply giveaways or discounts.
If your child is eligible for free or reduced school breakfast or lunch, make sure you’ve filed the appropriate documents.
Create a quiet place to study in your home. Nix the television/ GameBoy until homework is finished. Establish a routine that includes chores, study and time remaining, play. Lay clean clothes out the night before.
Show interest in your child’s studies. Ask about their homework.
Talk to their teachers. Praise them when they do good, lower the boom when they mess up.
Teach your children the 7 P’s. P.S. - It won’t hurt if you practice what you preach!
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