News & Views
from   The Parenting Center at Abington

.          School Feelings
  When the schoolday is done and kids are home they should be happy, right? Not necessarily. Unfortunately sometimes children may start exhibiting certain uneven behaviors once they arrive home from school. Uneven behaviors can include such things as excessive anger directed towards others, temper tantrums, sulking, and general irritability. Children tend to "save up" the feelings caused by events of the schoolday for home; feelings that they may not feel safe enough to air in public. These troublesome behaviors can be baffling until we think about what may be going on for our children. They are adjusting to a new environment, which usually involves increased stimulation and increased structure compared to the possibly looser days of summer.
  Also, some children may experience anxiety with adjusting to a new teacher, a new mix of students, and new, often more challenging, schoolwork. On top of that, we can think about the children's schoolday. We teach them to be on their best behavior all day; act polite to the teacher, be sociable with other children, mind their manners in the cafeteria, pay attention, sit still, and be quiet. When peer pressure, separation anxiety, fears, exhaustion (both physical and mental), hunger, and thirst are added to the mix we can see why our kids may exhibit negative behavior after school. But what can a parent or caregiver do?

  In his book Playground Politics, Stanley Greenspan says children need understanding, reassurance, support, praise and empathy from us. It is hard for them to go to school and we need to go easy on them. This does not mean embracing and allowing inappropriate behavior, just trying to understand it. Put yourself in their shoes and help them to understand what they may be feeling.

  Being knowledgeable about child development and watching your expectations is vital. It helps to arm ourselves with information about where our children are developmentally, as each new age brings with it its own unique stages and issues. An excellent source of information on understanding your child's ages and stages is the series of books by authors Ames and Ilg, entitled ...Your Five Year Old, Your Six Year Old, etc. The series continues up through age fourteen.

  Awareness of each child's distinct temperament is one of the keys to unlocking the mysteries of child behavior. Reminding ourselves that each child is unique is significant. While the child next door may be quite easygoing and compliant, your child may be the opposite; slow-to-warm or not so flexible. Just understanding that some slow-to-warm children may really struggle at the beginning of the school year and may not feel comfortable in their classroom until well into the Fall can be very freeing for some parents.

  When it comes to homework and after school chores, some children may need to go outside and play before settling down to do their jobs. Others may need a big snack and some "down time" after school, while others may want to get started on homework right away in order to feel ready for the next day.

  Get to know your child's teacher, school psychologist and principal - they can be your family's best friends during the school year. Don't hesitate to ask for their help.

  It seems like a lot to figure out. It can be. But while we go easy on our children, we need to go easy on ourselves too. There's no such thing as the perfect parent nor the perfect child; we may make mistakes, but every day is an opportunity to try again.

By: Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator
Deanna Bosley, Certified Parenting Educator, Editor

Sources and Suggested Reading:
Playground Politics - Stanley Greenspan, M.D.
How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk
Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Your Spirited Child - Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
Child Behavior - Ames & Ilg
September 1998
Vol. 1/ No. 1
The Parenting Center at Abington
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P.O. Box 596, Abington, PA 19001 (215) 576-0586

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