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Crazy-Making-Organized-Chaos: Finding family connection amidst the back-to-school transition

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schoolbus-81717_150It’s back-to-school time at TFI Talks, and to highlight this time of year our expert therapists are telling their own first-day-of-school stories, and at the same time providing insights into how families, parents and individuals can handle back-to-school stress.

Today’s story comes from Karen Krefman, MSMFT, LMFT. Karen Krefman maintains an active clinical practice at The Family Institute specializing in the treatment of couples and individuals.


My husband and I have had the privilege and joy of raising four sons, who have now all reached adulthood and left the proverbial nest. Looking back I remember their elementary school years as a time of what I affectionately termed “crazy-making-organized-chaos.”  Born within a seven-year period, they formed a rambunctious, energetic band of brothers; theirs is still a close knit sibship.

As a mom I looked forward to the start of the school year, because it brought some welcomed additional structure to the day and slightly less direct hands-on parenting responsibilities, if only during the hours of 9-3.  I believe my sons, to varying degrees, looked at the start of the school year with some anticipation and excitement along with a good dose of ambivalence and nervousness because it brought to the forefront our parental expectations to buckle down, apply themselves to their studies and basically do the best that they could.

When the youngest was born in August, my oldest was entering 2nd grade. Being sleep deprived, postpartum and hormonal, and rather exhausted to be sure, I was looking to him to lead the pack and set the example for his brothers.

What I hadn’t expected was that he would be clingy, reluctant to leave home and even a bit teary at times. It was uncharacteristic of him and I simply didn’t get it. How could this be? He had entered first grade happy, ready and confident in a seven-year-old sort of way.

Reflecting back with the wisdom and perspective that age and maturity can bring I realized that I had failed to fully understand and acknowledge the extent to which he was having to adjust to the transition of this newest member entering the family, and that his behavioral protest was his way of trying to communicate this to me. Spending some additional quality time talking alone with him about the changes happening in the family and helping him put words to his feelings certainly would have helped.

As a therapist in my clinical practice, I often tell parents that it is important to consider all transitions and changes happening within a family when their children are starting a new school year, as it may shed light as to why some can have trouble with the adjustment.


To read Karen Krefman’s full bio or to make an appointment, please visit our website.

The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health treatment for individuals, couples and families at our six Chicagoland locations. Learn more about us at our website.

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