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Aug 13, 2015

Healthy Living has First Day of School Jitters

The first day of school – usually the first image that comes to mind is of an eager toddler heading out to the first day of preschool. But the first day jitters for children – and parents – are an annual cycle. And for the parents whose preteen or teen is about to start high school, it can be an equally anxious experience. So this week in Healthy Living, I sought out Mental Health professional, Jenny Lovell, to provide some tips for parents to assist in this transition.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Starting high school can be a very overwhelming experience for children: the change in school environment, unfamiliar classes, new teachers and many more changes. While many learn to adapt over time, Mental Health Professional, Jenny Lovell, advises that parents can help in the transition.

 

Jenny Lovell

Jenny Lovell, Mental Health Professional

“It’s very important parents take this seriously. In primary school, we tend to let them get away with a lot of things. I believe the discipline should start in primary school, but a lot of parents don’t do this. In high school, you have to do it because in high school they are not going to be babying them. They are going to fall through the cracks or they are going to get expelled. So as a parent you have to be talking to the child that you won’t be able to be go to school playing anymore; all the stuff you did in primary school. And you have to sit down and have the talk with them, serious talk. Not one time because people don’t assimilate information in one talk. but you have what, two weeks before school opens…start the conversation.”

 

Parents should take the time to talk to their child about the added responsibilities that will be expected.

 

Jenny Lovell

“In primary school, teachers are spoon feeding the kids – they have to because they are little. But in high school, there’s a level of responsibility that is expected and so they absolutely have to become engaged in doing the work; they have to take the work home and parents have to check. And parents have to be checking with the teachers. You don’t wait for the teacher to call you when the child gets in trouble. You want to be checking with the teacher—make calls or stop in. And I am serious, stop in at minimum once every two weeks. The child needs to come home, get a snack, study. And they need to set time for math, set time for English…especially the subjects that give them problems. So have them make out a schedule of how much time they will spend studying. You don’t want them to do chores or anything until they have done what they need to do. Do homework, do studying and then go do chores. In between that they will get supper to eat with the family, hopefully. But study habits and you have to teach them study habits. You have to teach them discipline.”

 

Also, be sure to pay attention to their social integration.

 

Jenny Lovell

“You have to be monitoring your child to see if there are differences in how the child is behaving. Now as teenagers, they will generally tend to want to isolate anyway because they are more interested in their friends. Their friends have more say than you as a parent. But you have to be watching to see if you are seeing any signs in not eating, or they are not enjoying things they used to enjoy. Monitor their behavior, monitor how their attitude is to see what’s happening and ask them what’s happening in school. It may be a teacher, it may be bullying, it may be the cliques that they are not getting into, but as a parent you have the responsibility of making sure that you are checking with the child.”

 

Now, for some parents, the challenge can be knowing just how much to let go to allow their child to learn responsibility.

 

Jenny Lovell

“You have to have balance, you can’t be lazy-fair…meaning just leaving them to do whatever they want and you can’t be too authoritarian or dictating or just like babying them. First of all, the kids are going to tease them if mom is constantly bringing you all the way up to school and dropping you there and kissing you on the cheek before you go inside; the child will get teased. You can’t be doing everything for a child. A child has to learn to do for themselves or otherwise they will become dependent on you. And what you are doing is that you are now teaching this child behaviors that they need to become adults. I mean yes they are starting their first day of high school, their first form of high school, but you are beginning to teach them the things they need for life. But you have to stay involved. You cannot just let that child do whatever. Remember I said lazy-fair or the authoritarian. It has to be right here in the middle where you are authoritative, where you are making sure that you are checking with the child, giving them the information that they need and teaching them how to make good decisions. As teenagers, this is the age where the cliques are important, the friends are important. They want limits, they want the guidance, they want it. They won’t say they want it, but they want it. When I see them, my mom doesn’t give them any attention and it hurts them. So they are not going to ask you for it, but they want it. Please stay engaged.”

 

Lastly, open the lines of communication with your child and allow for a bit of negotiation.

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