Back-to-school ads and commercials have been overtaking the media of late. When I allow myself to drift back and spend time with my school memories, I really don’t remember much hype about back to school supplies and clothing. We had no cable TV or Internet so the advertisements were limited in scope.
My mother made most of my clothing back then and girls were not allowed to wear pants so that cut down on the clothing budget. School supplies were simple, or seemed to be. If you were armed with a pad of paper and a few pencils you were doing well. Backpacks did not exist but school bags did, mine of course was home made.
I do not recall any stigma being attached to my handmade creations nor do I remember any peer pressure to have just the right “stuff”. Cool new gadgets, such as calculators and electronic assignment books did not exist – getting my first ballpoint pen was the biggest highlight I had to shoot for. Despite this, I am sure my mother heard the words “I Want. . . “, “I Need . . . “, “I Must Have. . .” out of my mouth but whining was never allowed and did not produce the results I hoped for.
By the time I became a parent, things had progressed out of the dark ages and my children were much more involved in and concerned about their back-to-school purchases. Having just the right notebook, lunchbox and clothing item became much more important. The special requests for the latest back-to-school supplies in the theme of the most popular cartoon character and the clothing fad to match were constantly brought to my attention.
I empathize with today’s parents whose children are being bombarded even more with back-to-school media messages that make them feel they have to have this school supply or that outfit in order to fit in. The back to school shopping frenzy, the commercial hype and the added stress of a change in routine can trigger difficult behaviors in any child. It’s times like these when even the most giving child can begin to plead for what they want or think they need and what their peers are getting or doing.
The back to school commercials are doing their very best to lure those extremely impressionable children of ours into the “I want. . .”, “I need. . .”, or “I must have . . .” mindset so here are a few tips to help you curtail the back-to-school monster that may be threatening to consume your child’s mind and your pocketbook.
- Limit screen machine use. If your child watches any TV, you can be sure that she is receiving numerous media messages, which promote the notion that consumption is the pathway to happiness, love, acceptance, and success. These messages are also creeping into the Internet and the cell phones that now seem to be a normal part of life for most children. The media madness that advances a commercial culture may impact your shopping trip, your child and your wallet more than you realize.
- Help your child analyze commercials. Do not expect your child to be able to resist ads for toys, candy, snacks, cereal, drinks or new programs without your help. When your child asks for products advertised on TV, explain that the purpose of commercials is to make people want things they may not need. Limit the number of commercials your child sees by watching public television stations (PBS). You also can record programs and leave out the commercials or buy or rent children’s videos or DVDs.
- Stick to a shopping list. If buying school supplies is the goal for the day, keep it to that and save the school clothes or other items for another day. Straying from the game plan will only risk heightening your child’s anxiety as children with Autism do best when they know exactly what to expect. If possible, involve your child in creating the list of supplies. If the list is agreed upon prior to going shopping by both of you it is easy to point to the list and say no to additional requests.
These strategies do not guarantee that your shopping experience will be without the cries of “I Want, I Need, I Must Have. . .” but addressing these issues before leaving for the store will definitely minimize them. Shopping with your child without the stress of constant requests for this, that and the other will be a positive first step towards a new school year for both of you.
What do you do in your household to minimize the whining and the pleading from your children as you tackle your back to school shopping?
Connie Hammer, MSW, parent educator, consultant and coach, guides parents of young children recently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder uncover abilities to change possibilities.
Visit her website www.