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Thousands of children will soon make the transition from preschool or home to kindergarten. Some children will look forward to this moment with great anticipation, but others may experience some anxiety about leaving familiar surroundings. Regardless of how your child is feeling, parents play a powerful role in helping make the transition a smooth one.

Timing Is Everything

Now is the time to begin emotionally preparing your child (and yourself) for this new phase in life. Your attitude makes a big difference. Even if you are struggling with the idea of your little one going off to kindergarten, your goal is to deal with your emotions appropriately and prepare your child to make the most of this rite of passage.

Tips to Help You Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten

  • Visit the school where your child will be attending kindergarten.
  • If your child has not been in the care of someone other than Mom and Dad, allow your child to stay with other trusted adults prior to kindergarten to help them get used to another adult being in charge.
  • Plan activities with other children where your child has to learn to take turns and share.
  • Point out colors and shapes at the grocery store and count apples, bananas or cereal boxes.
  • Encourage active play, especially pretend play, with other children.
  • Read, read, read.
  • Limit TV, computer, tablet or smartphone screen time.
  • Encourage independence in managing daily tasks. For example, teach your child how to tie their shoes, let them set the table, make their bed, dress themselves, etc.
  • Start your school routine early to help your child adjust to the change in schedule.

Dealing with Your Emotions

If this is your first child or your youngest child headed off to kindergarten, the transition may be more emotional than expected. Guard against behaviors that might upset your child. If you are anxious about being away from your child, talk with other parents who have already experienced it. Instead of going home to an empty house on the first day of school, plan to have coffee with a supportive friend.

While it can be scary to leave your child at school, remember this: Most teachers love children dearly. They care about their social and emotional development as much as they care about their academic growth.

Helping Your Child Through the First Week

The first week can be especially hard for your child. Here are some ways to make it easier:

  • Be supportive. Adjusting to school may take time. Ask, “What was the most fun thing you did in school today?” Then ask, “What was the hardest thing for you?” Only ask this after you have discussed what was fun. Don’t expect your child to tell you every detail.
  • Instill a sense of confidence in your child. Celebrate your child’s successes. It takes time to adjust to new people, new activities and a new environment. Don’t expect perfection.
  • Set aside a time each evening to share your child’s day. See if your child has brought home any drawings, paintings or scribbling. After a few weeks have passed and your child has gotten used to school, ask about play in the classroom, stories the teacher read, recess, etc.
  • Read everything the school sends home. During the first weeks of school, children bring home a wealth of information about routines, important dates and meetings that you will need to know about. Make sure to check your child’s backpack daily.
  • You may want to go over with your child — in a positive, calm way — the information you have supplied to the school on the emergency card. This includes who may pick your child up other than you, where she can go if you’re ever not home, etc.

For more insight on parenting, download our E-book “4 Ways to Stay Connected After Baby.” Download Here

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

It was a typical morning around the house. Between dressing and feeding the kids and making herself look presentable, this mom wondered if she even knew who she was anymore. She enjoyed her children, but always felt like she lived in the mommy fog and had no time for herself. She felt guilty about being away from her kids even for 30 minutes here or there, but sometimes she asked herself, “Where does a mother go to resign?”

Between endless laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning spit-up and spilled milk, keeping up with schedules, bath time, chasing children, and preparing meals, many moms wonder exactly when they will get time for themselves. They feel that if one more person says, “In the blink of an eye they will be grown, so cherish every moment,” they aren’t sure how they will respond.

So, how can a mom recharge her batteries without feeling guilty?

First, understand that taking care of yourself isn’t optional; it’s necessary. You can’t give what you don’t have. If you are always running on empty, irritable and have a short fuse, everybody knows it. It impacts your relationship with your children and tends to bring out the worst in them … and you.

Here is some wisdom from moms who have been down this path before:

  • Plain and simple, ask for help. Healthy people ask for what they need. If you don’t have extended family around, barter with friends or find surrogate grandparents who would be willing to help. Avoid the trap of believing others are too busy to help you.
  • Share the load. One mom shared that she has two children with special dietary needs. For a period of time, she alone made sure everything was in order for every meal. When she finally included her husband in the process, it allowed them both to care for their children’s needs. Not going it alone has given her the freedom to be away without having to worry about them.
  • Create margin in your family’s life. You know your family situation better than anybody else, so evaluate your current set of circumstances. Your children don’t have to be busy every moment. You don’t have to do everything everybody else is doing. Commit to doing what is in your family’s best interest.
  • Do something daily that fills your soul and makes you smile. There are lots of options, from enjoying the outdoors to silently soaking in a tub. Believe it or not, this will help you feel better about yourself and your parenting.
  • Avoid wishing away the moments. Life is short. Instead of wishing time away, embrace where you are and make the most of every moment. Every season has its challenges. Instead of viewing the challenges negatively, surround yourself with people who can help you walk through them, embrace them and successfully reach the other side.
  • Be grateful. In the midst of dirty laundry, food prep, smelly diapers, children pulling on you, fights over toys and lack of sleep, acknowledge your blessings. Even if you feel like you are living in a never-ending fog, gratitude can change the way you feel and think about life in general.

A mom’s role is not easy. But remember, moms have needs, too. If you want to care for your family well, take good care of yourself. Believe it or not, that is what will help lift you out of the fog and prepare you for whatever comes next.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on October 16, 2016.

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

When children first start school, parents usually have a pretty clear understanding of how to help their child have a successful year. But when those kids become teenagers, parents sometimes struggle with their role.

Parents usually play a much more active role with younger kids in making sure homework is completed, volunteering in the classroom, dealing with friendships, interacting with teachers and making sure their child gets enough rest. Too often, though, parents believe they can be less involved when a child moves from elementary to middle school.

While parents may want to change how they engage their tween when it comes to school success, research indicates this is not the time for parents to back off. The tween/teen years bring their own unique challenges, and teens aren’t sure how to talk with their parents or any other adult about many of them.

If you want to actively engage your teens and help them have a successful school year, these ideas can help you out.

  • Have a back-to-school discussion about expectations. Ask them what they want to accomplish this year and discuss ways you can help them reach their goals.

  • Establish healthy sleep patterns. When it comes to rest, plenty of research indicates that tweens/teens do not get enough sleep. On average, teens need 9.25 hours of sleep each night to function at their best. For various reasons though, many of them get significantly less than that. You can help with this by teaching them organizational skills. Have them look at their overall schedule of school and extracurricular activities, then develop a plan.

  • If you are still waking your teen for school, purchase an alarm clock – their phone doesn’t count. Make them responsible for getting themselves up in the morning.

  • Set a budget. Instead of constantly forking out money for this and that, allot a certain amount for school supplies, clothing, extracurricular activities, etc. and teach them how to manage this money. If they want to purchase things that aren’t included in the plan, resist the urge to figure it out for them. Instead, guide them in finding ways they can earn the extra cash.

  • Give them added responsibilities such as doing their own laundry, assisting with meal preparation and packing lunches.

  • Talk with them about the qualities of healthy relationships – friendships, dating relationships, relationships with teachers and school administrators. Discuss how to treat people with respect even if they aren’t respectful in return.

  • Avoid handling their problems for your teen. Talk with them about the issue, then help them problem-solve and determine a course of action. Facing a challenge head-on and making it to the other side is a huge confidence-builder.

  • Be clear about your expectations when it comes to bullying behavior. Research indicates parents are often the last to know when this is going on – whether your teen is the bully or the victim.

  • Talk about addiction. Discuss the opioid crisis and the impact of drugs and alcohol. This conversation makes it more likely for your teen to talk with you when they do encounter challenges.

  • Be very clear about your expectations and consequences for lack of follow-through, and avoid putting anything out there that you will not enforce. A great rule of thumb is this: less is more. Remind them that nothing they can do would make you love them any more or any less. Your teen needs to know you believe in them.

The teen years are incredibly challenging because everything in their world is changing. Their brain is growing, their body is changing, relationships are different, and they are establishing their independence while still being dependent in many ways. While they may be taller than their parents and seem smarter, especially when it comes to technology, it’s good to remember that 12 is just 12 and 15 is only 15.

Be present. Keep your eyes wide open. Let them make mistakes. Be there – not to lecture them – but to help them figure out what they could do differently in the future. Stay focused on your goal of launching someone who is capable of caring for themselves and being a productive person.

Even though they may begin to push you away, adolescents need their parents. Don’t be lulled into believing they needed you more when they were younger. The truth is, they need you now more than ever as they navigate the potentially-turbulent teen years.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on August 13, 2017.