Monitor Board of Contributors: Start of school doesn’t have to mean the return of stress
Ashley Campbell attempts to console her daughter Lily, 5, while dropping her off for the first day of kindergarten at Chester W. Taylor Jr. Elementary School Monday, Aug. 18, 2014 in Zephyrhills, Fla. Public schools in Pasco and Pinellas welcomed back students Monday. Classes in Hillsborough begin Tuesday. (AP Photo/Tampa Tribune, Chris Urso) ST. PETERSBURG OUT; LAKELAND OUT; BRADENTON OUT; MAGS OUT; LOCAL TV OUT; WTSP CH 10 OUT; WFTS CH 28 OUT; WTVT CH 13 OUT; BAYNEWS 9 OUT; THE TAMPA BAY TIMES OUT; LAKELAND LEDGER OUT; BRADENTON HERALD OUT; SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE OUT; WINTER HAVEN NEWS CHIEF OUT; ONLINE OUT
School is starting soon, which means the pleasurable and carefree days of summer are about to give way to the excitement and stress of starting school.
Yes, for our children, teens and young adults, a new school year can also mean a new year of stress, both academic and social. Also, there is the stress of competing with a team or performing in an artistic endeavor.
With this in mind, we should take a few moments to consider what we, as adults, can do to help our children navigate the new school year in a more positive manner.
First, there are the social issues – especially bullying.
With the ease of using social media and young peoples’ facility with it, there are many ways to be bullied.
When I was young, a bully had to face his or her victim and often that led to other students standing up for the child being bullied because they witnessed that peer’s pain first hand. Now it’s easier to join in, as the person being bullied is often faceless.
As parents and concerned adults, we should first be aware of what media our children are using and whether it’s appropriate for their age group.
Parents should strive to be “friends” on their children’s Facebook pages so they can monitor what is being sent around. If they have concerns about what they see, they should address this with their children.
Also, parents shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to other adults if they find something concerning. Sometimes, all it takes is a call to another parent (if you know them) or to a guidance counselor or principal at your child’s school.
It’s better to get involved than to ignore it and wish you had said something. If your child is being bullied on social media, don’t be afraid to enforce a time out. Studies have shown that if a child isn’t looking at the bullying on screen, they often aren’t worried about it and, without a response, the bullying soon ends.
There is also school/academic stress.
I see a lot of high school students taking several AP classes per semester. These classes are meant to be college level and usually begin during junior year.
Unfortunately, families see these courses as a prerequisite to getting into a good college. When my son started college four years ago, we were told that most AP courses would not fulfill a requirement and that the students would have to repeat these classes at the college.
This is how many colleges are dealing with the overabundance of AP classes in high schools. Since there is a great deal of variation in the quality of AP classes, the colleges see them as less valuable.
So if your child loves advanced math, tell him or her to take AP calculus. But if you were counting on it for a credit in college, it’s probably better to take honors calculus in high school, get a good grade and enjoy all the other activities that high school has to offer.
Also, your student may then get the nine to 10 hours of sleep a night they require at that age rather than staying up until 1 a.m. completing AP homework. By the way, getting the proper amount of sleep leads to less depression, better grades and overall better well-being among teens.
Sports are another source of stress – as well as a source of fun, achievement and bonding.
Most important, the sport should be fun. If a coach is bent on winning at the expense of your children’s enjoyment of the sport, perhaps you should reconsider their participation in that team. There are plenty of other sports and teams out there.
This also goes for the performing arts. Your child is most likely not a professional dancer, singer, musician or actor. They are children and teens exploring potential careers and/or activities that will be in their lives for years to come as a source of enjoyment and, hopefully, stress relief.
As parents, it is our responsibility to help them explore their interests while at the same time watching out for their well-being.
Lastly, there is the issue of substance abuse.
Here, again, it is important for parents to know how and with whom their children are spending their time. It has long been documented that parents who discuss drugs, smoking and sexual activity with their children and teens have children who make wiser choices about these activities.
Have a family meeting, discuss these issues, bring up things you see in the newspaper (as in the recent spice overdoses) and make sure your children know your position on these issues.
You will reap the benefits of these discussions in helping your children navigate these potential dangers. Letting them know you are there to help with these decisions will take another layer of stress off their shoulders.
Above all, discuss life with your children and teens. Support them in any way you can, but don’t be afraid to put restrictions on their activities when you see a potential problem. Our children do listen to us.
Now go out there and have an awesome school year!
(Dr. Patricia Edwards of Bow is a pediatrician and president of Concord Pediatrics in Concord.)