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Mourning the Loss of Your Summer Child

During the summer months, our children run free. Their true and genuine selves burst forth, and the chaos is both maddening and wonderful. Now that homework and school routines are in high gear, it’s natural to mourn the end of those carefree days. But it’s equally necessary to help your child navigate the transition.

We’re deep in to Halloween-costume-choosing season now, with holiday wish lists close on its heels. Somehow, two months have flown by since the first day of school and I find myself wondering, where did those lazy days of summer go?

Just as each new school year brings rites of passage, so too it brings a sense a loss. For kids, all those unplanned hours are (temporarily) a thing of the past. Recently, my first grader summed up her school experience like this: “Mama, it’s work. We work, then we do more work, then we eat, and do more work.”

As a parent, I can’t help but feel sad watching my spontaneous, fun-loving, creative kid have to turn down the volume of all of her amazing quirks when she steps into the classroom. No parent wants their child to suppress their most genuine self, or struggle with school’s daily demands — academic or behavioral.

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With that in mind, here are the strategies I use and recommend to help big-emotioned, high-energy kids adjust to real life with homework and early mornings:

1. Treat any start as a good start. Chances are, your kid is resistant to sitting down and doing their homework. After sitting still in class all day, who wouldn’t want to run around with friends or play video games? Our kids need to blow off steam, and until they do so they may find staying focused on homework daunting. For kids like this, the hardest part isn’t the homework itself — it’s getting started. So, tell your kid to try writing a single word down, or working on something for 5 minutes. With a little momentum, they’ll see that they can do the work and will feel empowered to keep going.

2. Don’t forget the fun! If you can schedule homework time, you can also schedule fun activities that get your kid moving or let them explore their imagination. For every 30 minutes of successful homework time, or every assignment completed, reward your kid with 5 minutes of play, whether outside or with a favorite toy. Establishing this kind of incentive system is one way to remind your kid that going back to school doesn’t mean abandoning the things they most enjoy.

3. Break up the early morning tasks. Every parent knows the nightmare of getting your kids ready and out the door each morning. For kids who resist school, it can be even harder. One way to ease this process is to break up the morning tasks for your kid so he isn’t overwhelmed with everything at once. First, he should brush his teeth. Then, he can get dressed. Once he’s dressed, it’s time for breakfast. After breakfast, the shoes goes on. And then it’s time to go — with a backpack packed the night before!

4. Acknowledge the loss. I’m not afraid to admit that I cry when I watch my daughter go off to school again after a summer filled with laughter, big smiles, and some healthy chaos. It goes against my instincts as a mom to send my little one to a place where she might sometimes feel bad about and doubt herself. It’s important that parents be able to acknowledge this loss and the worry that comes with it, and also not shy away from talking to their kids about it. Talking about what, exactly, makes school hard gives parents and kids the opportunity to work together to come up with solutions, and also helps kids feel like someone is always in their corner.

[Read This: What Kids Need to Be Happy]