Back-to-school blues -- encourage without bribery!

by Mollee Bauer

Back-to-school BluesAlthough you may have had to resort to bribery, your child's off to school every morning now, just like a big kid.

Three weeks ago, your kindergartener was excited to be starting this new adventure. But now, instead of exuberance, most days start with tears or complaints of a tummy ache.

The scenario at your house could look like this. Your son stares at his assignment list and bursts into tears.

It's not unusual for kids to have the back-to-school blues. Here's what you can do to help make the transition smooth.

Helping your child adjust to school

Chat with the teacher

Get to know the teacher. If you're not able to attend the orientation or open house, check out the school's website and introduce yourself by email. If a problem crops up, this will make connecting with the teacher easier.

Call or email and explain that your child doesn't seem to have settled in yet. An experienced teacher will understand and may reach out with extra attention for a few weeks.

Set up opportunities for friendship

Kids need to feel bonded to at least one other child. Ask which kids your child would like to invite over to play or invite a mom with her kid over for a treat.

You might try inviting the whole family over for a dinner or picnic in the park. By the end of the meal, your kids are apt to be tearing around like best friends.

Listen to your child

Facing a new school or school year can be scary. Most school anxieties are caused by things adults find silly like they'll get lost and can't find the right room.

Your everyday demands could make chatting with your child challenging. Talk while driving home, work together on dinner or schedule an activity or outing. Ask how school's going. Listen as your child shares concerns and fears. Reassure and make a plan to overcome those potential worries.

Tell stories about your own school experiences

Kids think you can't possibly understand -- you're so big and they're so little. Share your experiences and how you overcame obstacles. Were you embarrassed to ask to use the bathroom? Did you worry your teacher wouldn't like you? Not only will your child realize they're not the only ones that face these things, they'll develop a sense of camaraderie.

Mornings and evenings count

Start nighttime and morning routines. An earlier bedtime, plenty of sleep and a smooth, predictable morning gives your child the internal resources to face the rigors of the school day.

Another perk -- encourage your child to read in bed since they're facing an earlier bedtime. The extra practice could mean better reading and academic success.

Set your child up for homework success

Whether your child whines or experiences a full-blown meltdown, homework expectations take their toll.

You can make homework seem less work by providing your child with tools, time and a quiet space. If you child tends to panic, help organize the work into smaller tasks.

Watch for signs of a serious problem

Most kids do fine at school after a few weeks. Sometimes unhappiness indicates a serious issue. Your child may be bullied, doesn't understand the lessons or can't see what's happening in the front of the room. Talk together but if you can't discover what's wrong, call the teacher.

Has school met your child's expectations or do you have a case of back-to-school blues on your hands? What's helping or has helped bring back the excitement?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.