by Mary McKheen, ACSW
Parents, are you ready? Ready or not, it’s time! The new school year has started.
For some parents the new school year spells R-E-L-I-E-F. The kids being gone all day allows parents more time to accomplish daily tasks. But for other parents, the start of a new school year spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E. Homework defiance. Refusal to get up on time. Bedtime problems. Crazy soccer schedules. The list of problems can go on-and-on.
It’s important to remember that parents are their children’s most important teachers. The following are a list of teaching tools and attitudes that encourage good choices and promote healthy family living:
Create routines. Children respond to structure and consistency. Having daily routines for getting ready in the mornings, homework, chores, and bedtime helps kids adjust and teaches them to complete daily tasks. And having routines at home helps their work in the classroom directly because their school day is full of routines. Sit down with your kids and make a 5 step chart for each routine of the day. Don’t expect perfection. But when kids accomplish at least 4 out of the 5 steps, allow them to earn an incentive. Some incentive examples are watching a favorite television show; a special snack; or mommy-daughter nail polishing time. Ask your kids to help you come up with some incentives they would be excited to earn after accomplishing difficult routines.
How many parents feel that kids these days have lots of privileges that we didn’t have when we were young? Computers, electronics, wii games, Play Stations, tablets, etc. So many electronic toys!! Practice the When…Then rule. For example, “Tommy, when you complete your homework, then you can use your tablet for 45 minutes.” Parents, set limits and use electronic toys as a reward for good behavior.
Establish fun traditions. Some examples: When you eat dinner together at night, ask for the high point and low point of everyone’s day. Make Friday night a fun family night where everyone can decompress after a long week, and take turns planning the fun family night. Have a special dinner plate—something colorful and fun—that is used to celebrate a family member’s success. For example, if a child accomplishes something difficult in school, he or she gets the special red plate and gets to choose what he wants for dinner (with approval). Make Tuesday night, Taco Tuesdays! Kids—and adults—love traditions. Traditions help us feel secure and part of a group.
Establish a weekly Family Meeting. Family meetings can be a great chance to plan fun traditions; plan out the schedule for the next week—with calendars in hand; make plans for meals and snacks; as well as solving stubborn family problems. When parents use family meeting time as a chance to plan fun family activities, as well as for problem solving, then kids don’t dread them as much.
Choose the Right Activities. Make mindful choices. There’s no need for everyone to run ragged trying to get from one activity to another when kids aren’t even enjoying some of the activities they are involved in.
And, finally, stay positive and encouraging. Remember, it’s all about progress, not perfection, for both parents and kids. Celebrate small successes.
A parent’s attitude has a strong influence on how kids view the beginning of the school year. Take some deep breaths and remind yourself that you will survive this school year!