Back-To-School: A Prep Conversation With Your Kids
Back To School—As summer comes to a close and students look forward to fall, there are lots of back to school must haves: new clothes, school supplies and the latest tech gadgets. However, it can be easy for parents to also get wrapped up in the back to school whirlwind and forget about another essential – the prep conversation.
Transitions from one age group to another, especially the transition from middle to high school, increase risk factors for drug and alcohol use. Before your kids make the change, discuss their areas of concern and create an action plan that identifies potential areas of stress and healthy coping mechanisms. This may include planning your child’s involvement in supervised, school-sponsored activities like band, sports, debate or theater.
Discussing sensitive subjects can sometimes feel overwhelming or awkward, for both you and your child, but it’s important to remember that if your child doesn’t get accurate information from you, he or she is more likely to get inaccurate information from another source.
Tips for a Back-to-School Prep Talk
Below are some tips to keep in mind as you plan a prep conversation with your kids:
- Talk early and often. Don’t wait until the day before school begins to have a conversation about expectations. Addressing potential issues well before they occur is an effective way to deter negative behavior. Make sure you have conversations on an ongoing basis, especially as your child deals with new, potentially stressful experiences both in and out of school.
- Create an annual contract. A contract that puts goals and expectations in writing, created with your child’s input, can provide an objective record of agreed-upon rules. Some topics you may want to include are drug and alcohol abstinence, curfew, technology usage, and family rules and consequences. Keeping the process age-specific is also key.
- Review school policies and discuss consequences. Remember that little packet that comes home at the beginning of the year with school rules? Read it with your kids. This is another opportunity to talk about what the school, and you, expect for the upcoming year. Make sure consequences for breaking the drug, alcohol and honor code polices are clear to your child.
- Address current observable areas of concern. If you’ve noticed any potential drug and alcohol abuse warning signs, such as rapid mood swings, anger management issues, withdrawal from family activity or physical changes like significant weight loss and changes in sleeping patterns, discuss them with your child, rather than waiting for things to escalate. Remember to take advantage of school resources that may be available at no cost, including assessment and counseling services.
Overall, remember that your kids have their own unique stressors and, while they are not the same as yours, they are very real. The more frequently you remind them you’re there to help, the more likely they are to be open, honest and safe.
For more parenting tips and tools, please visit http://www.caron.org/parenting-tips-and-tools.html.
How do you prepare your children for school? What conversations do you have with them to address potential issues, set expectations, and set action plans?
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Tammy Granger is Caron’s Regional Director of Student Assistance Programs for Caron Treatment Centers. As such, she manages Student Assistance Services in the Northeast region in private and public schools as well as colleges and universities.
Caron’s Student Assistance Program currently reaches more than 90,000 students, teachers and parents annually.