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The Brutal First Weeks of Going Back to School

Summer ends and school begins. Parents everywhere rejoice and shove send their sweet little angels back to school. We are excited! Soon they will get back into their school schedules, households order will be restored, and the chaos of summer will disappear.

However, every year I always seem to forget one tiny thing. The first few weeks of going back to school are BRUTAL.

BRU-TAL.

Some kids handle the transition well while others . . . do not. My daughter, who is fiery and oppositional by nature, seems to handle transitions very well. She skips off to school and actually returns home a happier child. (What exactly is in that school lunch, and can I have some?!) My son, however, is an emotional soul, and the transitions are often too much for him. It’s hard to see it at first as he is really good at faking us out. We send a smiling, happy boy to school. He is excited! He wants to go! When I pick him up from
aftercare? He looks me dead in the face and tells me “No, I want to stay here.” So we’re all good here, right?

Wrong.

back to school kids anxiety brutal weeks

The side effects of starting school are small, but slowly, they start trickling out. It starts with whining when I ask him to put his socks in the hamper. Dude, you’re like two feet from the hamper. What’s the big deal? Or where he normally would fight with his sister over a specific chair at the dinner table, he now goes straight into tears and five minutes of crying. The random emotional outbursts were just the first two weeks. Then the teacher started sending home homework.

Dear Lord. The homework.

The first week saw my son sent to his room multiple times just to calm down and get his composure together. The mere asking of him to do homework sent him into a tailspin. This is too hard. I don’t know how to do that. I DON’T HAVE COLORED PENCILS! When we finally got him to calm down, it turned out it’s not too hard, he can do it, and Mommy will buy you some colored pencils for next week. We chalked this horrible week up to “first week of homework jitters” and went on our smug parenting way thinking that this was a one week thing.

We are such amateurs.

The second week of homework came and pretty much destroyed our family. I don’t want to do this. This stuff is too hard. I STILL DON’T HAVE COLORED PENCILS! (For the love, woman! Buy some colored pencils!) A simple task of writing two things you like about a friend started Armageddon in our house. I did what all good parents who read parenting books do and calmly sat down with him and tried to walk him through his homework. I stayed calm while he slowly started to unravel. We talked out the problems. When that did not work, I gave him the answers. (I know, I know—but it was so bad, and I was DONE!) But even my giving him the answers did not help. He continued to melt down. Then I melted down. There was screaming and crying and tantrums—from both of us. We called it a night and went to bed, homework only partly done.

I know it will not be like this all school year. I keep reminding myself that while he is at the same school and with a lot of his friends, he is still adjusting to a new schedule, a new teacher, and new friends. That is a lot for a first grader to handle. New situations send me into anxiety overload, so of course he feels the same! I remind myself (repeatedly) that the first weeks of a new transition for him are brutal for everyone. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have an email in my draft folder, ready to send at the next meltdown, that tells the teacher we are done with homework this year as it is destroying our family.

If you are in the same boat, hang in there! Our little ones will adjust. And as soon as they do, it will be summer again!

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2 Responses to The Brutal First Weeks of Going Back to School

  1. Heather Watson September 7, 2016 at 8:47 am #

    Great read! I can relate to every word!

  2. Katie September 7, 2016 at 4:53 pm #

    Hi. I read your post earlier and just read page 58 of The Whole-Brain Child book. It describes exactly what your son is experiencing re: homework, then details a strategy that may (hopefully) really help your family. Its about how moving the body can refocus/enable calm in the mind.

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