Walking through the aisles of our local Target a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but notice the new displays and merchandise that had been recently added to the store – Back to School. Wait a minute, Back to School? Hadn’t the kids just gotten out of school? And now the stores are mentally gearing us up for the return of early mornings, homework and studying? I for one, mourn the end of summer break as much as my kids do! I love having them home and enjoying lazy days doing as we please, so when Back to School time hits, I get a little anxious. Of course, as soon as my kids saw the back to school supplies, the immediately started begging to roam the aisles, looking for the coolest folders and backpacks.
I’m sure not all kids are jumping for joy at the idea of school supplies, but my kids were ecstatic. Their excitement may have something to do with the fact that we have never had to purchase supplies before, so this was a new adventure for them. They could not wait to pick out their own pencils, folders, and notebooks! Their excitement about school supplies is an extension of their excitement and anticipation of the upcoming school year in general. This year, for the first time, they will be the “new kids” in school. While many military kids bear this title multiple times throughout their school career, this will be the first time for my children. As a National Guard family, we aren’t moved every few years by the military and don’t have to face the changes that come along with those moves, such as being the new kids in school. But this year, we made the decision to switch our kids from private school to public school, so they will get to experience the “new kid” position in school.
At the same time, I am going from being a working mom to being a stay-at-home mom, so we all have changes coming about with the new school year. With all the changes, how can I, as a parent, help my kids adjust, as I am trying to adjust at the same time? The first thing I learned was to stay calm. They react based on my mood or attitude. I was not very happy with the idea of changing schools for my kids, even though I knew it was the best decision in the end. As a result, my attitude showed that and my kids were unhappy as well. I realized that if I wanted my kids to feel positive about this change, I needed to start being positive first. Once I started to note the positives in the situation, even if they were small ones, and share those with my children, they began to get excited and were more positive as well. They became very exited after a visit to the school (I admit, I did too!) and their excitement over the situation helped me to see that they really will be OK.
Another way I’ve been trying to help my kids adjust was to prepare early. I am a procrastinator by nature, so this was a bit difficult for me! Once we registered the kids for their new school, we met with the principal, toured the school and obtained their supply list. As soon as the stores had their supply aisles in place, we were there filling our lists. At the time we shopped for school supplies weeks ago, we were the only ones shopping for supplies. Now, with only a few weeks until school starts in our area, the school supply aisles are crammed with parents and kids trying to get the needed items. It’s chaos in there! Shopping early saved me from having to be among the crowds and provided a bit of calm to the situation, which was chaotic enough as I tried to figure out exactly which box of markers the kids needed. It also saved me time, as the supplies we needed were all in stock, rather than picked over as they now appear. I’m not usually so ahead of the game, and I’m sure next year I will probably be one of the last minute shoppers. But for this year with so many changes, it’s nice to have the smaller details, like back to school shopping, already taken care of.
While I am nervous about this new change, my kids honestly are not. I fear that they won’t fit in, or that they will get lost in such a large school, or that they won’t make friends…the list goes on and on about my anxiety over this change. Yet so many military kids that I know successfully make this transition every few years. While my kids may not have to change schools every few years due to military moves, they have learned how to adapt to change and to be strong just through the various things that the Army has thrown at us. They are used to “rolling with the punches” and taking whatever life brings with a grace that most adults don’t have.
It’s just part of life with the military, and it’s the part that I believe will help my kids be successful in their lives, whether it be the start of a new school year as the new kids, or in the path they follow as adults. The strength and resilience they gain from being military kids will help them to become strong, adaptable adults. Now I just need to learn from their attitudes, and remain calm and resilient as well.