Lisa Smith, an In Home Family and Teen Coach with Save My Family Today, is sharing her words of wisdom with us parents as we head into yet another school year.
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I can hear it from my office chair… the cheers of parents as they are about to send their kids out of the house and back to school. But the tranquility of a quiet home will only last a minute if you aren’t prepared for the school year to come. Here are critical things to do and topics to consider in effort to make the transition as peaceful as possible. Keep in mind that the two things kids crave, the two things that can ward off almost all anxiety, are knowing what to expect and knowing they have a constant source of safety and unconditional love to come home to. Consider the following:
1. Define expectations
All kids, at every age, want to know what is expected of them and what they can expect from you. So…get really clear on what your expectations are of your kid and yourself when it comes to this school year. The expectations should be different than last school year in some ways because they are a year older (and so are you) which means you can raise the bar a bit. Discuss with them what is a reasonable grade to expect in each class or assessment, what daily chore does he need to do around the house regardless of how busy or tired he is, what is the expected attitude toward his teachers and family and if applicable, what are the expectations about social media and dating? Equally important is what can they expect from you? What can you commit to in regards to demonstrating support, going to events, hosting friends at your home? Above all, commit to being kind and consistent no matter what the day brings.
2. Structure the Day
Don’t leave the schedule to chance or assumption. Decide ahead of time through conversation and common sense what needs to happen and when. Leave as little wiggle room as possible to avoid misunderstandings. When is a reasonable time for bed? When do phones need to be put away… as in, out of their room? You may need to buy them an alarm clock since they won’t have their phone and you won’t be waking them up if they are older than ten. What time do they need to be up in the morning and what time do you all need to be out the door and on your way? When is family time? How much screen time do they get during the week and weekends?
3. Empower Your Kid Instead of Enabling Them
Ask them what they expect of themselves in regards to school, sports, giving back to the community, being a part of the family unity. Then ask how you can support them in meeting those goals. Don’t do the planning or the work for them. Instead, make sure they have the resources, encouragement and support to do it themselves. Demonstrating that you believe in them helps kids feel strong and capable versus helpless, dependent and anxious without you.
4. Set an Inviting Tone With Teachers
There are a million studies out there that say students do exponentially better in school when the teacher and parent have a good relationship. Work with the teacher to support your student. Understand that teachers are just as stressed and overwhelmed as the rest of us. Appreciate what they are doing and do your best to never talk badly about them in front of your kids. Reach out to the teachers and give them your contact information so they can connect with you when needed.
5. Don’t Obsess
Be involved without smothering your student. There’s no need to check online grades every day! Stop yourself. Pick one day a week to check out what your kid is up to academically and stick to that day. The more you pull back the more your student will step up, no matter what age.
6. Leave Last Year in the Last Year
Maybe your kid did a stellar job in school last year. This year may be the same, it may better or it may be more difficult. Whatever the case, don’t compare to last year. Your kid is changing. You are changing. Circumstances are changing. Address what is right in front of you without referring to the good or bad of what happened in the past.
The new school year brings opportunity for growth on many levels… academically, maturity, socially, emotionally. Be your kid’s biggest fan by encouraging them and also holding them to a standard you know they are capable of and nothing less.
This isn’t always easy. Keeping yourself in check as well as your student can be challenging. If you need help, ask us. You don’t have to do it alone.