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Tuesday, August 11, 2015
In Preparation for the School Year or How to Avoid Homework-Induced Apoplectic Fits
As the summer comes to a close emotions are generated in special intensity. Children experience a formidable mixture of excitement, apprehension, and dread as the beginning of the school year draws near. A similarly potent mixture of relief and some regret is building in the hearts of parents as the knowledge that soon the days will be theirs again competes with “I can’t believe that little Sophie is going in to 5th grade!”
In my years of working with children throughout the pages of the calendar I have noticed an interesting phenomenon. Psychopathology is often school specific. This is sad to me and it suggests that schools need to pay attention to what might be making kids crazy, or worse, what might be causing them so much pain. But that is a conversation for another time and place.
The matter at hand is what can kids and parents do now, a few days before school, to prevent the development of that pathology.
A great man, Rabbi Noach Orlowek, suggests that we prepare in advance for the crisis so then when the crisis happens we will be able to respond calmly and not be totally reactive.
Let’s take a page out of the book of firefighters. If you have ever been in a fire station when the alarm goes off you may have noticed that the firefighters don’t run around flapping their arms like a bunch of prepubescent girls screeching, “Fire!! Fire!!”. They calmly and quickly get their boots and pants on, grab their coats and helmets and get on the truck ready to do their jobs. This calm and proactive reaction to the alarm is the result of many hours of training and study so that when the emergency occurs they know exactly what to do and they don't panic.
It is therefore my personal and professional recommendation that parents and caregivers find a moment before school starts to initiate this type of conversation. Take your kid out for some ice cream and start like this, “Johnny, do you remember that when you get assigned homework you often have an apoplectic fit that usually ends up in one of my ornamental unicorns getting broken?”
Johnny nods with his mouth full of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.
“Do you enjoy apoplectic fits?”
Johnny predictably shakes his head.
“When you’re done with your ice cream can we talk about ways you might avoid apoplectic fits and I can keep my unicorn collection intact? I’m happy to help support you but you know I can’t do it on my own because I only have apoplectic fits when my lacrosse team loses. You can only help yourself and I can support you.”
Johnny nods his head again.
A meaningful conversation ensues where you both discuss ways that Johnny might be able to proactively address his issues with homework and ways that he can effectively implement these changes in his life.
If you or someone you know would like support in this area please don’t hesitate to contact me.
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