Back To School Changes
Back To School Changes
Dear Tacit,

With school fast approaching, what can I do to help get my kids prepared for the changes?

Signed: Back To School Changes

Dear Back To School Changes,

Summer is wrapping up quickly (don’t we kind of feel this way every year? LOL).  And it’s a good time to start looking ahead, to create a schedule that is most helpful for everyone in the family.  Traffic patterns change, sleep routines flex, and there is a flow of busyness that seems to happen differently over the 9 months of the year that do not include the summer holidays.

Kids and parents alike need some of the same things to help them prepare for these back to school changes, so they can feel successful (and so the stress levels can stay manageable).  It can be boiled down to a few simple concepts – balance, routine and structure; support and encouragement; and consistency and stability.  Here are my top suggestions for how to make things run smoothly:

Get your kids on a schedule that works for school (and your own work/life needs) 1 to 2 weeks before classes are scheduled to begin.  Get everyone back into the pattern of going to bed and waking up at the appropriate times – of eating meals that work in whatever environment they will be in – of being in a rhythm that balances play time with school/work time and with homework/reading/extra activity time.

Work out any kinks or resistance as they surface, so there is less pressure on you all when school actually begins again.  Get the school supplies ahead of time, figure out the classroom locations, and plot out the routes (from home to school to work, and back again), as needed.  Find out what is going to cause the most stress, and practice/prepare for it with lots of test runs.

Build in time to talk to your kids, every day.  Ask them about their school experiences of course, but go beyond that and check in with them about their mental health.  Do they have any stressors or worries that have developed?  Are they feeling safe and confident in everything that they are doing?  What are their thoughts about what is happening in their worlds?  The connection to you/within the family unit is going to be the foundation that determines how well your kids navigate whatever pops up over the next few months.  And if any concerns arise, daily check-ins will ensure that you can spot them right away, so you can address them before they become a crisis for anyone.

(Just a side note: during these quality connection moments, if you find yourself talking more than the kids are, notice and stop.  Switch to open ended questions, to allow your kids to carry the conversation as much as possible.  There are many techniques that teach kids the fine art of communication.  This includes how to share, to listen, and to validate/empathize with others.  They are going to need these skills throughout their entire life.)

Create a rhythm for your school days and weekends/holidays and stick with it. We all feel less stressed when we know what to expect.  It takes far less energy to flow with the structure and habits that we have created, instead of needing to decide from scratch each day about what it is that is going to happen next.

Flexibility is also key – the flow to your week does not have to be etched in stone.  Let your kids make some of their own decisions about what and when they will do things.  But ensure that each category of need (physical activity, education and learning, connection time and social development, alone time and self awareness/reflection, sleep, nutrition and hydration, chores and responsibility, reading and mental growth, etc) is slated into most days, so they do not have to go without something that helps them stay healthy and in balance.  Be cautious about overscheduling your kids (and yourself) – responsibilities need to be met but down time is extremely important as well.

Remember that we make time for whatever it is that truly matters the most to us.  Try to prioritize happiness and healthiness over just being busy and active.  If we can teach this to our children, and show them that we practice it ourselves, we will all have more endurance for all the bumps in the road that always end up coming along.

Take Care!

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