As students prepare to take their first extended break of the 2022–23 school year, parents should pay attention to their own behaviors as well as those of their youngsters, urges Aaron Munson, a school counselor with Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) Butler University Laboratory School 55.
IPS families should mark the calendar for Fall Break on Oct. 10–14. Innovation schools might follow a different schedule, so check those school calendars.
“We have just finished the first mostly normal semester we’ve had in 3 years,” said Munson, who is the 2022 Indiana Elementary School Counselor of the Year. “For any number of reasons, you may be feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, relieved, worried, anxious, thrilled. Guess what? So are your children!”
He notes that children are excellent observers of their world, but they aren’t always the best at interpreting their world. Especially with young children (and sometimes even teenagers), these misinterpretations can be noticed through behaviors.
“In our school, we teach that behavior is a language. Behavior communicates something. You may have noticed since March of 2020 an increase in adverse behaviors from your children,” said Munson “It is likely that you may notice some of those behaviors manifest themselves over break.”
Munson offers the following ways that parents may better support youngsters:
• Regulate yourself. If you aren’t regulated, you won’t be able to regulate your child. Take care of you!
• Give yourself time. Timeouts aren’t always for children. Sometimes we need to be removed from the situation so we can calm ourselves down.
• Apologize as necessary. We must model for our kids (especially due to the pandemic) what we would expect of them. It is always appropriate to apologize to a child when you’ve done something wrong. This teaches them that no one is perfect, and even those who love them most in the world make mistakes. It also teaches them how to accept responsibility for their actions.
Munson also points out the best option for supporting the mental and emotional health of your child lies within being proactive.
“Set them and yourself up for success,” he said.
Here are some recommendations from Munson:
• Prepare them for the break, and for re-entry. For my own children and also for my students, I write social stories. Literature is such a powerful tool for children! Here is a template you can use with your own children this break.
• Be curious about your children. If they are acting out, ask them what they need. At the beginning of each day, ask them what they are looking forward to. At the end of the day, ask them what their favorite part was. This communicates care and safety.
• Give boundaries. Children feel safest when they know what to expect. One example is to use timers when children are playing video games. This makes it very clear when it’s time to move on. This can help avoid arguments.
“We have to remember that children are a gift and so are you,” Munson said.