The school year is in full swing, and the excitement and energy of life’s new pace are most likely wearing off.
This is normal. Embracing ways to adjust and establishing new rhythms will greatly benefit school, work, extracurricular activities and family life. Below are some tips and strategies that can be useful while parenting and managing the school year. Though its focus is on parents, the advice need not limit those in different circumstances. Please adapt any information and suggestions to fit your place in life.
Schedules, Routines and Boundaries
Kids thrive when provided structure. It creates safety in which they have room for independence but also reminds them they are kids and don’t have to be in control. Schedules and routines help children learn daily patterns and create consistency that is reliable and enhances the feeling of safety.
An idea to help incorporate this is utilizing a monthly family calendar to list all responsibilities and events. Each person could have their own color on the calendar to help with organization. For daily routines, families can visually outline each person’s task. Let your kids create their own way to display their daily routine. Having structure is particularly helpful when trying to get out the door in the morning, and the best part about routine is the longer you stick to it, the easier it becomes.
Boundaries are limits that protect kids from overload, like participating in too many afterschool activities or parties. While these events are potentially enjoyable, they may be overwhelming and draining on both kids and parents. As a family, discuss how many extracurricular activities are appropriate for each member and even set aside one night a week for family time.
Fun doesn’t have to mean going on long trips or seeing a movie, which usually equates to spending money. Kids are playful by nature. This is how they communicate, especially at a young age, so incorporating play and fun at home is vital for physical, relational and mental wellbeing. Be creative with activities. Ask your kids what they’d like to do or give a few options and let them decide. Make a jar to store the list of activities the family enjoys and pick one when it’s time for fun. Being active, exploring the outdoors and learning new skills are simple but profound ways to benefit health and wellness and increase family unity when done together. Not only does this model the importance of play but also the ability to create unique experiences while being prudent with funds. Adults need play too, so join the fun.
Family support is imperative for kids to thrive and adjust well to life’s uncertainties. Family unity and identity will be created when relatives – especially parents – encourage and strengthen one another.
Support for your kids can look like many things, but two areas to focus on are probing questions or statements and validating answers. For example, “Tell me about the best part of your day,” “What do you wish was different about today?” or “I notice you seem sad. I’d like to know what you’re thinking” are statements and questions that allow kids to open up without feeling pressured to give a recited answer. Acknowledging the answer by saying “I’m so happy that you had a fun day doing…”, “That’s a really good idea to try tomorrow. Is there something I can do to help?” or “It must be pretty frustrating when your friends… I would feel upset about that too” confirms to your kids that you honor their experiences and respond to their emotional needs.
This gives them security in you and in turn increases their self-esteem. Kids crave support and validation but typically do not verbally ask for it, so they reach out through actions. Bad behavior can often be reframed as children seeking parents’ love and nurture. Imagine having your own personal cheer squad that consistently praises and encourages. You can be that for your kids.
Brooke Runion is a licensed marriage and family therapy candidate who provides school-based therapy services to families, adolescents and children in rural schools. She is a therapist for Gateway to Prevention and Recovery and a team member of Partners in Caring, a collaboration of local partners whose goal is to support families.