Back to school time means new planners, new backpacks, new shoes, new clothes. It also means new routines, new classes, new teachers, new expectations, new personalities, new activities. New can be really exciting. It can also be extremely overwhelming, especially for children. Children are resilient and adaptable, but they are also still new to the world themselves. They thrive best when they stay connected at home while they venture out into the world.
Children are resilient and adaptable, but they are also still new to the world themselves. They thrive best when they stay connected at home while they venture out into the world.
Remember the last time you were in a new situation? Maybe you had done something similar, but this time you were a part of a new team. Imagine your thoughts and feelings as you entered into that: Will I say something stupid? Will I find a friend? What if no one likes or appreciates my contributions? Our children experience the exact same feelings and thoughts, except they rarely have the life experience and language/communication skills to tell us their worries and fears. Instead, they most likely break down in the evenings, dissolve into tears over the color of their toothbrush, or struggle to pull themselves out of bed the next morning until we feel like we might pull all of our hair out.
First of all, I want to say that I 100% believe that your child(ren) and you are normal for having all of these thoughts and feelings. We all struggle. We all want to be loved and accepted. We all have worries about being new and finding our place to belong. We all wonder about how we will stay connected when things are new and busy.
Secondly, I have some tips and tricks that have worked beautifully in our family to stay connected during the newness and hectic times of the school year. Try out any that you want and see how they work for you.
Each of my children has a journal. Our goal is to write in it every day before we go to sleep. Sometimes we make it, and sometimes we miss it. But we do all know that the journal is available. Writing out our thoughts from the day helps us process them. Sometimes, we cannot fall asleep because of all of the thoughts inside our heads. Get them out of your mind and on to paper! With my youngest, I take dictation. I write down exactly what he says, and then we read back over it. He really appreciates this and enjoys when we read back through everything he has told me. With my older children, most days they choose to write on their own. I don’t monitor their journals; these are their thoughts. I read if they choose to share with me.
Feeling stuck on what to write? We typically write three things: the worst thing from the day (we begin with this to get it out of the way); the best thing from the day (we want to end the day thinking of something positive); and either something we are most thankful for that day or something we most want to remember about that day (then we have a bit of a diary to read over later in the year). Bonus: this meets the reading/writing component that we know is so valuable for their continued learning and development at both home and school.
Have as Few Choices in the Morning as Possible
I cannot remember where I read this advice, but it has served me well for years. The last thing I want to do in the morning is make decisions. I want to get started on my day. This applies to my children as well, and the less choices they have, the better we all get along and out the door on time. This takes some planning either weekly or each night before we go to bed. We have to plan our clothing, gather together all of our supplies to take with us the next day (find those library books and sign those permission slips!) and know our morning routine.
Our routine is THE SAME every single school day: Wake up, Use the Bathroom, Get Dressed, Eat Breakfast, Grab Our Things, Get Out the Door. We do NOT play, read, have electronics, or do anything other than those six things. Any time we have deviated from this plan, the morning was a disaster. I highly recommend making and sticking to the plan. Bonus: I feel so much more connected with my children when we are not stressed about our choices.
Greet One Another with a Snack and a Smile
Whether you are home to meet your children after their day at school, or you pick them up from an after school club, activity, or care program, nothing quite says, “I love you,” like a snack and a smile. My children are always ridiculously hungry after their 7+ hours away at school. We try to mix it up each day and pick two from these four categories: protein, grain, fruit/veggie, dairy. Some of our favorites are cheese sticks and graham crackers, yogurt and fresh fruit, egg & cheese in a tortilla, chocolate hazelnut butter and whole wheat bread, and even milk and cereal. Bonus: This snack usually buys us an extra 30-60 minutes before we find them asking about dinner.
Make a Family Day/Night Commitment
We really try to keep Sunday for Family Time. It is the one day every week we all know not to commit to a work or school activity. Yes, there are exceptions, but we are usually good with our commitment. It gives us an entire day every week to fully recharge our spirits and reconnect as a family unit. Sometimes that means we watch a movie together as a family. Sometimes that means we clean out the garage. Sometimes that means we all do our own individual things, but we are all at home together. It really does not matter what we *do,* but that we have a dedicated day every week for us.
Being intentional to connect with your children will keep them grounded and more confident as they venture out into their own lives. It also makes your times together more fun and enjoyable.
New routines and new schedules can make life feel hectic, but staying connected eases the stress.
How does your family stay connected?