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8 Reminders for a Great School Year

Decrease stress and drama with these steps.

Wait, what? It’s already time for school to start? It seems like just yesterday that kids were doing the happy dance as they got off the bus and headed home for summer break.

Are you ready to kick off a great school year with less stress and as little drama as possible?

Here are eight reminders to help parents set the stage for a great year:

  1. It’s okay to say “no” when commitments get too demanding. Many child experts warn parents about the stress children experience when they participate in too many activities. Ask yourself, “Are we in control of our schedule, or does it control us?”
  1. Saying “no” can be for you, too. On top of children being stressed, parents really have to consider their own bandwidth when it comes to school, work and additional commitments. A stressed-out, tired parent who is always at the end of their rope typically leads to more drama. Ask yourself, “Will my family benefit more from this activity or from an unstressed parent?”
  1. Routines and structure at home will help everyone. Having consistency at home is best for children and parents alike. When you set a bedtime, morning, and getting home routine, you’ll actually decrease stress for children (and adults) because they know what to expect. Ask your family, “What’s one routine we can start that will help everyone after getting home from school?”
  1. Intentional evenings create smooth mornings. Things like choosing an outfit, packing lunches, getting backpacks ready with completed homework inside and signing papers before bedtime can make the morning better. Anything you (and your kids) can do the night before to make the morning less hectic is a serious plus! Ask your family, “What’s one thing we can all be responsible for every evening to help our mornings go better?”
  1. Let your children do what they are capable of doing for themselves. Start by giving each child a short list of responsibilities as their contribution to the family. It’s tempting to do things yourself because it’s faster or easier. But it’s good to develop the habit of delegating stuff you know they can handle. When you face the temptation to jump in and take over a task, tell yourself,  “Giving room for independence will have a bigger impact on my child than if we’re late.”
  1. You will always be one of your child’s teachers. As a parent, you’ll always be your child’s first teacher. But the job isn’t over just because they’re in school! From homework help to life skills, try to be active in your child’s education. Ask your child, “What is one subject you feel a little nervous about? Is there anything I can do to help support you in that subject?”
  1. Technology is a tool. Technology is almost always a huge part of education, so setting screen limits and technology boundaries can be tricky! You can find helpful information as you seek to make decisions about this at Families Managing Media. Ask your child’s teacher, “What role does technology play in the classroom? And what are the expectations for technology at home?”
  1. Regular family meetings can help keep communication open. Set a weekly time for the family to all sit down together – even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Talk about what’s on deck in the coming week for everyone, and see if anybody is responsible for taking food or materials to school. Plan meal prep for the week, or discuss anything important for everybody to know. Ask your family, “What are two things you’d like us to talk about more often?”

Getting into the swing of things as the school year starts doesn’t have to take till fall break! Make time for your family to connect and communicate – it’s one of the most effective ways to decrease stress and drama. Here’s to a stress-free and great start to the school year for your family!

Other blogs:

8 Ways to Manage Family Time – First Things First

My Spouse and I Disagree About Parenting – First Things First

How Technology Affects Families – First Things First

7 Expert Tips to Handle Difficult School Drop-offs

You can help your kids feel safe and secure about school.

Day one of school came, and we were ready to rock. Excited to see friends, make new friends, and launch into a new adventure. But then we got to the front door, and our kindergartner lost it. She didn’t want to go, and the tears flowed. We made it through days one, two and three, and then we were a week in. As we figured out routines for a successful school morning drop-off, each day was better than the one before.

Then, quarantines hit, and school closed for a time. We had to start the process all over again. School drop-offs can be difficult for many kids (my 5-year-old despises it). It becomes more challenging when you have to alter routines due to things out of your control, like a pandemic. 

It’s important to recognize and validate your children’s feelings. They may be anxious about a new place, new people, or the ever-changing schedule.

These tips from experts can help you  navigate school drop-offs like a pro:

1. Talk about what’s going to happen.

Know your school’s drop-off policy and where your child will go. Create a morning routine that works for your family. Also, let your child know when you’ll be back to pick them up. The more comfortable they are with the daily routine, the more likely they’ll be able to accept and even look forward to the morning drop-off.

2. Make sure everyone is rested.

Good sleep goes a long way in preparing for the day. When you’re crafting the morning routine, give yourself plenty of time to get ready too. We’ve found that we need to get up at least 30 minutes before our kindergartner to make the morning less stressful. 

3. Create a goodbye ritual.

When my son started school, we came up with a secret handshake. He looked forward to it every day, and it helped him mentally transition. My daughter has crafted her own goodbye ritual. Work with your child and come up with a goodbye ritual that makes them feel more comfortable. Maybe it’s a secret handshake or a hug at a specific spot on the way to school. 

4. Offer a comfort object.

A source of comfort can be helpful if your little one is anxious about going to school. Check with their teacher to see what they can and can’t have. Maybe it’s a small stuffed animal in their backpack they know they can’t take out during the day. Perhaps a keychain clipped onto their bag or a family picture can remind them of home.

5. Arrive early.

School mornings are stressful, and that stress level can go through the roof when you’re running late. Plan to arrive early. Schedule in a buffer time so your child isn’t feeling rushed. Whether that’s getting to the car line early, arriving at school in plenty of time to walk them to the door, or getting to the bus stop in time to talk for a few minutes. Arriving early can lower everyone’s stress levels.

6. Make it quick.

I had a friend tell me recently that when she dropped her son off for his first day of daycare, the teacher said the best thing you can do is say bye and leave. This is so true; painful, but true. The longer you linger, the harder it is on them. Often, when a child enters school, they are mentally transitioning to the day ahead. My daughter’s emotional drop-off on the first day of school only lasted a couple of minutes, and then she got busy with her day.

7. Stay positive.

Another thing you can do to help your child have a successful drop-off is to stay positive. Our stress and anxiety can quickly transfer to them. If you’re confident and optimistic, they are more likely to do the same. 

This school year looks to be full of unknowns. Each week, we don’t know how many days we’ll be in school or how our routine will be thrown off. We may experience that first-day drop-off anxiety numerous times, and we can help by being upbeat and positive. It may not be easy, but our kids don’t need easy; they need safety and security, and we can help them feel safe about school.

Sources:

How to handle difficult school drop-offs, according to a maternal wellness expert

Crying at Drop-Off – Perfecting the Preschool Separation

Other blogs:

How to Help My Child Handle Anxiety

8 Back to School Parenting Tips

Back to School Tips

How to Start School Routines

4 Ways Having a Routine Contributes to a Happy, Healthy Family

25 Things Parents Say When It’s Time for Kids to Go “Back to School”

If you have kids, you've probably said some of them yourself.

For many of us, it’s back-to-school time. Each time this year, we are bombarded with ads to help prepare us and our kiddos for school. 

Here are 25 things parents say (to yourself or to your kids) when it’s time to go back to school.

  1. “It’s about time!”
  2. “BYE! BYE! BYE!”
  3. “OMG, you have outgrown all of your clothes.”
  4. “I’m glad I finally get my life back.”
  5. “My grocery bill (electric bill) will go back to normal.”
  6. “Don’t make your teacher have to call me.”
  7. “Why don’t you want to go to school? You are gonna LOVE school.”
  8. “I don’t care if you don’t like that teacher.”
  9. “Did you brush your teeth?“
  10. “This backpack has to last you all year.”
  11. “There’s a fundraiser? Already?”
  12. “What’s with all these fees?”
  13. “Why does your teacher need 7 boxes of tissues?” Or: “Back in my day, all we needed was a Trapper Keeper, pencils and paper. Now, we have to buy out the store.”
  14. “I’ve got the whole house to myself! I’ve got the whole house to myself!“ (As I spin around in circles.)
  15. “Keep up with your stuff (water bottle, sweater, notebook), I’m not buying another.”
  16. “You lost it, already?!”
  17. “I can’t believe that you are in ______ grade. It seems like you were just in kindergarten.”
  18. “I can’t win without losing. My food bill goes down, but my GAS bill goes up.”
  19. “Call me Mario Andretti!!!”
  20. “These should last you all year.”
  21. I say to myself, “Do you hear that? No, what? Peace and Quiet!!!”
  22. “It’s the MOST Wonderful time of the year!!!”
  23. As they walk out the door, “Where has my baby gone?”
  24. “After last year, I’m so GLAD school is open.”
  25. “Go BE Great.”

LINKS:

Things Parents Say About Back 2 School | Back 2 School Comedy Sketch | The Mompreneur Plug

Parents Share Their Biggest Back-To-School Concerns for Fall 2020

15 Tweets That Nail How Parents Feel About Going Back to School

7 FREE Things Every Family Should Do Before Summer Ends

Don't let the summer months pass without having some fun together!

Strengthen your bond with your sweet family by doing some or all of these 7 free things together before summer ends! No need to let these summer vacation days slip by without squeezing in some free fun for the family!

1. Be Explorers For The Day!

Soak in some sunshine and quality time with your family. Not sure where to start? AllTrails has 100,000+ trails listed all over with reviews and photos so you can find one perfect for your family. If you have some paper and a broken crayon laying around, bring it along to make an etch. Have your kiddo(s) pick out a tree or rock they think would have the wildest texture, then put the piece of paper on it and rub the crayon on top (preferably unwrapped and horizontally).

While you’re out adventuring in the great outdoors, answer these questions:

  • What is your favorite part about exploring?
  • What do you see that is interesting or fascinating to you? 
  • If you were going to bury treasure out here, where would you bury it?

2. Become Champions of the FTF Family Challenge!

This 30 Day Family Activity Challenge is packed full of fun for the whole family! If you love a good belly laugh, some friendly competition, or just some good ol’ quality time with the ones you love most, this is perfect for you. Of course, you may not finish it before the summer ends, but you can continue the challenge into the school year. You can download it for free and have some fun sitting in your back pocket. With a little help from the challenge, you keep your relationship with your family a priority as life picks back up. Be flexible with your schedule; you can do a challenge week or every other weekend.

After you all do a few activities together, ask:

  • What activity has been your favorite so far and why?
  • What’s your favorite part of family time?
  • Have you learned anything new about yourself, like discovering you’re good at something you hadn’t tried before or perhaps that you don’t like something?

3. Picnic Together!

Simple, but always a favorite. Throw together a family meal and pick your favorite spot. Maybe for you it looks like driving to a local park, a lookout, or sitting in the yard. If it feels nice out, instead of dinner and a show, make it lunch and a game and bring along a family favorite board game to play when you’re done eating.

Conversation starters:

  • What are three words you’d use to describe yourself?
  • How do you know we love you?
  • What’s your favorite thing to do as a family?

4. Be Expressionist Artists.

Now, I’m not talking oil canvas painting with classical music playing in the background—I’m talking expressionist like using a piece of paper and some sort of drawing/painting utensil to express yourself. Think of it like a picture journal.

You can use whatever is on hand—crayons, watercolors or even pens! You will be painting your thoughts about what these last few months have been like. If we’re honest, COVID-19 has changed the way daily life has been lived for the last few months. Putting those feelings into words can be hard for kids. Nonetheless, reflecting on what has happened is healthy and a great way to make sure you all are on the same page!

Sit down at the table or lay the art supplies out on the floor and paint/draw what the last few months has felt like. Here are some prompts: Draw/paint…

  • How have you been spending your days?
  • What feelings and emotions have you experienced?
  • The hardest part of quarantine?
  • The best part of quarantine?
  • If your kids are a little older (8+) suggest drawing a comic strip to show their experience. 

Once you all have finished, ask these questions:

  • Tell me what’s going on in your picture?
  • Why’d you choose to draw that?
  • How are you feeling now?

5. Water Day!

Get ready to make a splash and go to the nearest body of water before summer ends. Whether it’s a creek, lake, ocean, river, pond, pool or hose in the yard, take advantage of it being hot outside and jump in! 

You can do so many things with water!

  • Swim.
  • Build a dam with rocks at the creek.
  • Play tag with the ocean by running as close to the waves as you can and then running back to shore without getting your ankles wet.
  • Skip rocks.
  • Feed ducks or fish with some stale bread or cereal.
  • Splash contest! (Big or small.)
  • Critter Count Contest. (See how many different critters you all can find!)

6. Movie Night!

Lights, Camera, Action! Take it up a notch and make a movie ticket for your kids and give it to them in the morning so they have something to look forward to all day. You can make it a “dine-in” movie and eat dinner while watching the movie. When it comes time for the movie, show your kids their seats, whether it be the couch, epic fort you encouraged them to make that day to watch the movie in or a pallet of pillows. Make it feel special. Presentation is everything. If you’re excited, they will be too!

Questions to ask after:

  • What was the best part of the movie? Why?
  • Would you have done anything differently than (insert main character’s name here)?
  • What character do you think I am most like?

7. Silly Day Out.

Run errands or go to the park dressed up in costumes or goofy clothes. Take pictures and share laughs wherever you go. Teach your kids not to care what others think about them and to enjoy making the most out of the mundane things like grocery shopping. Not only is it a great lesson, but it will definitely be entertaining.

Questions to ask:

  • What was the most fun part?
  • Do you think other people were having as much fun as we are?

It’s good to be reminded that making some of the best memories cost nothing but time. Taking the time to enjoy being a family and having fun together is so important for the relationship you all have together. The more fun you have, the more you’ll love to be together. 

✦ If you do any of these ideas, we would love to see! Tag us on Facebook and/or Instagram and have fun!

Bonus Blogs to Checkout:

When Mary Lou Youngberg’s boys were growing up, she often volunteered at their school. She did everything – from working as a classroom mother to a PTA officer and Scout leader.

“When my children were older and we were facing the ‘empty nest,’ my husband encouraged me to return to school to get my teaching degree,” said Youngberg. “Now that I am teaching full-time, I want to go back to every teacher my sons ever had and tell them how much I admire and appreciate their decision to enter this challenging profession.”

Youngberg describes her teacher training as amazing.

“I learned that it is my job to inform parents that children go through developmental stages and that every child is unique and special. Every child has a learning style, and parents do too,” Youngberg said. “I have learned that it is very difficult to convey what it is that makes the teaching profession so challenging, yet so rewarding and worthwhile. It seems to me that we teachers share a joy and passion for working with children that others do not comprehend or appreciate.”

Here are some tips that teachers wish all parents could know to help make for a great school year:

Be informed. 

Attend open houses and PTA meetings – no matter how old your child is. Read information sent home by your child’s teacher. It’s amazing how often parents ask teachers questions about information that was addressed in newsletters or other correspondence. Become familiar with school curriculum, policies and procedures. If your school has a website, check it out.

Be responsible.

Respond to signature requests promptly. Send lunch money, field trip money, PTA dues, etc. in a timely fashion. Teachers spend precious time sending home reminders about this and more. Make it a habit to check your child’s folder or backpack daily for notes and information from school. Be on time for conferences. Also, label all your child’s belongings, including jackets and backpacks.

Be a good role model.

Demonstrate the importance of following school rules and procedures. Make sure your child gets to school AND is picked up on time. If your child is supposed to sit and read quietly in the cafeteria before school, make sure she has a book in her backpack. Look for opportunities to meet and greet all the adults your child will encounter at school.

Be supportive.

Join PTA and attend meetings. Offer to volunteer. Even if you are unable to go on field trips or volunteer during the school day, you may be able to help in other ways. Perhaps you could prepare classroom materials at home in the evening.

Be reasonable. 

If you need to meet with the teacher, request a meeting. It is hard for teachers to have quick unscheduled conferences when they are trying to keep up with their class. If your child is sick, keep him home from school.

Encourage good homework habits.

Help your child understand the importance of completing homework assignments on time. You can help and encourage your child, but make sure the final product reflects her effort, not yours. When parents provide structure and guidance – then allow their children to learn from their mistakes as well as their successes – it shows they care. If your child is struggling with a particular topic, talk with the teacher about ways you can help. Look over your child’s work to reinforce the concepts the school is teaching.

Keep the teacher informed.

Send a note or talk to your child’s teacher about issues that may affect your child’s performance at school. If your child is dealing with grief, divorce, sibling rivalry, nervousness about an upcoming event or excitement about a visit from out-of-town grandparents, it is good to share this information. Make sure the teacher knows about health issues such as asthma or allergies. Provide information on what procedures to follow in the event of an allergic reaction.

Encourage healthy habits. 

Whether your child buys or brings a lunch, emphasize good nutrition. Avoid sending sugary snacks to school and have healthy snacks on hand at home. Encourage your child to spend time being physically active through play or sports. Make sure your child gets enough sleep.

Read together.

Children benefit enormously when parents read with them. Make reading together a daily habit. Have discussions about reading and talk about books as you take turns reading out loud. When possible, help your child acquire age-appropriate books about topics that interest him.

Express Appreciation.

Teachers strive to inspire students to be lifelong learners. They often make their work look effortless, but it requires a lot of expertise and countless planning hours to do what they do.

“It is important to remember that teachers teach because of the things they believe in,” Youngberg said. “They want each child’s special interests and talents to be nurtured. Teachers know that once you give children the tools and experiences to make learning relevant, they truly will be lifelong learners.”

Image from Unsplash.com

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!