Parenting guru Betsy Brown Braun, author of "Just Tell Me What to Say," told "Early Show" viewers the top five things parents should do to help avoid the chaos and confusion that can accompany the start of any school year, in Monday's start of the series, "Early Goes Back to School."
Among the strategies she shared: how to deal with separation anxiety:
Why is the back to school season oftentimes so stressful for both parents and children?
The back to school season is about change and both parents and kids have to deal with the challenges that brings and both kids and parents may have been on vacation, kids may have been at camp and there is a general feel of laid back days and some rules that may be in play during the school year can disappear. It's important to create a routine so that things are less stressful and less filled with confusion.
Why is creating a routine so important?
Routines create predictability in a child's life. It's like an anchor, tethering them down, providing a regular structure. They encourage the child to take responsibility for himself and take it off the parents
What do you mean specifically when you talk about creating routines?
First of all creating a morning routine is key. That will make your whole life better:
1. Hurrying and rushing children is the enemy. Calm rules! Do whatever you can the night before: lunches, backpacks, permission slips, etc.
2. Parents need to get up earlier to prepare themselves and get their kids ready
3. After snuggle time for the younger ones, everyone gets dressed first.
4. Breakfast comes right after getting dressed. Sit at the table..reconnect after the night. Don't rush!
5. When everything is done (clothes, breakfast, teeth, backpacks)if there is time the carrot or nugget for children is getting the opportunity to play (TV, computer, a game of Go Fish, reading the box scores together, etc…)
At nite, you say that parents should also create a routine. What is it?
Kids need a night time routine, just like they need a morning routine. They do better when they know what is expected of them. For young ones, they always have dinner, take a bath, have two books, and go to bed. For the older kids, establish their routine with them. "What is your plan for doing your homework? Before you have play time or after?" Have a homework plan -- where/when it gets done. Have rules about use of tech and TV -- when and when not. And stick to your rules. Have a bed time.
What do you advise to avoid the separation anxiety that will inevitably come from both parents and child whether it's there first time going to school or just first day back at school?
There's always going to be anxiety. The important thing is to acknowledge there's always new things. It can be a little funky when you go to school….remind them about the fun.
For the new kids, please avoid saying, "When school starts" or "When you're in kindergarten." Don't build up the anticipation or anxiety.
2. Remember with the child how it was when s/he started preschool. It was all new and then s/he got comfy. Talk about it being a new experience for BOTH of you…you will be meeting new mommy/daddy friends; s/he will meet new kid friends. You're going to go through it together.
3. Drive by the school. Practice the drive or the walk.
4. Talk about the things you wonder about. Tape your child asking the questions…then play the tape back later so s/he can see that she mastered her original fears.
5. Don't leak your own anxiety……stop talking!
There can be a lot of tension at the start of school season over the most minute things between parents and kids. How can we minimize this tension?
Yes there are a lot of disagreements. This is the advice I give parents. Give kids control over the things they should have control over. The two things I say we never fight with kids about are one, food and two, clothing! For younger kids, put all the clothes that kids may not wear to school (superman costumes, Snow White dress, party shoes) on one side of the closet and let the child know these are for afterschool and weekends. Then let the child choose, all by herself. Pick out the clothes before bed the night before.
For older kids have discussion with them , "What is your idea about what the rules for clothing should be.?" When kids have a role in the decision making, they are more likely to abide by them. No comments about taste.. only about suitability for school. No fights. Remember that the way your child dresses is not a reflection of you as a parent.
There are tons of books out there helping guide parents to what they should be doing. For you, what is one of the most important things you think should supersede any of the rules or routines you may have created? (Kids need to get enough time with their parents)
Back to school signals a revving up everyone's schedules. Everyone's busy. Family time is the first thing to get squeezed out. It's the thing that children of all ages need the most. Family is the touch stone, the anchor. Parental attention fills kids up. Make sure the time you spend with kids is about just being together and not just doing errands, going to activities, or shouting directions. Being with parents centers children…and parents.
To read an excerpt of "Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents," click here.