These words bring forth excitement and dread for me each school year. I work in education, and I love what I do but as the long hot days of summer begin to wind down, I always dread the end of the carefreeness that summer brings just because it is summer. When I was a young mom this time of year meant shopping and new clothes for kids and me- even to this day I buy myself a first day of school outfit. This was always fun because I was able to actually spend time with my kids, no matter their age. When I was asked to write this post, I began to think nostalgically about the years I spent preparing myself and my kids to return to school and as a Grandmama now a reflection of my best ideas versus my poorest ideas comes to mind.
Creating a routine- one year I had the bright idea to start about two weeks before school waking everyday at school time as opposed to summertime wake up time to create a school like routine. This lasted about three days when I then discovered that I did not want to give up the last of my summer either. However, what I think I was able to do was to bring some order to our morning rather than the summer behavior of waking up and eating whatever you wanted out of the kitchen and then sittingand watching TV. Once we started working at creating a routine,we were able to get back to a morning routine of breakfast and then do something constructive. One summer I used these two weeks to create a reading time so after breakfast we all took out a book and read for 30 minutes to an hour depending on the kids’ ages. This particular part of our routine I still have in my move back to school repertoire and do today. In creating your own routine, what is important to you and your family when school starts and what can you implement now?
Family meetings- I have always thought that it was important that the kids have a space in the family where they can talk about their own emotions, excitements, adventures, triumphs,and defeats so if you do not have a way to do this in your family you might consider a family meeting time. We typically did this after dinner and right before school I tried to always share what I was dreading about going back to school and encourage the kids to share. My husband, who worked out of the home before working from home was a thing, said at one of these meetings that he dreaded the fact that he would not be able to hear our footfalls above his head in the morning. He shared that he found comfort in knowing that we were all only footsteps away and when schools started, he would not see us until late afternoon. If you are interested in creating family meetings Jane Nelsen’s book Positive Discipline discusses having family meetings.
Flexibility- We all have nervousness around trying to start everything off well sometimes to the point of wanting everything to be perfect. However, something I think we all know but bears repeating- if you don’t learn how to flow with the wind you will end up being snapped in two. The beginning of school always requires a good deal of flexibility in my role as parent, educator, friend, and employee. In this process just don’t forget to be flexible with yourself.
Showing love through encouragement- I again refer to something that Jane Nelsen talks about in the book Positive Discipline. Make sure the love for your child shows through. This might be a whispered reminder as you tuck them in at night that you see how hard they worked today or that they are an important part of this family, or it might be an encouraging note in their lunchbox. I suggest that in sharing our love with our children we do this through encouragement rather than praise. Encouragement notices their effort more than the accomplishment. “I see how hard you are working on this.” “You used a lot of different colors on this artwork.” This looks like you spent a lot of time on this project.” You feel proud of what you have done here.” All these statements recognize effort over a product.
So, if you use these four concepts will you have a wonderful beginning to the school year? I seriously doubt that these four concepts will alleviate all nervousness but I hope that they encourage you to reflect on what you feel will best help you and your family get off to a positive start.