Back to School (and Remote Learning) Tips

Back to school time is hard every year…any year…but especially THIS YEAR!

These past 5 months have been hard—haven’t they?  We have all been facing unprecedented circumstances for our generation.  And our children are certainly a part of a life-changing pandemic that we have no idea about the true ramifications on their lives.

To make things even more difficult for our family…over the past 5 months, my mother-in-law’s physical and mental health quickly declined and just last week, she passed away.  My husband is a teacher and because of the coronavirus and the schools being closed since March, he was able to go up and take care of her and honor her during her last days on earth.  He had been gone so much over the past 24 weeks that I had a whole new appreciation for the single parent!  Wow–it was exhausting for all of us.

And starting next week, I will be facilitating remote learning for all three of my children even though I was counting on having the time to dedicate to serving, teaching, and coaching families through Real Life Families and taking classes for grad school to get my master’s in Psychology–Child and Adolescent Development.

But I may not have time to do those things.  My own family comes first.  My job as a parent comes first.  I may have to pause grad school.  I may have to do less for Real Life Families.  I just don’t know what I will be able to do this fall.

I know you’re probably facing some of the same dilemmas and fearing some of the same challenges too.

I have no idea what to expect from this whole remote learning thing nor do I know how long it’s going to last nor do I know if I’m going to have the patience to handle it all.  But I do know that as a family, when we face potential problems, crazy challenges, or unknown circumstances, it is critical that we remember that we are a team and we can solve any problem together.

So whether your kids are doing remote learning or actually going to school this year, here are some great tools to help you and your family…


1.  THE PROACTIVE TOOL:  Let’s think ahead.  Identify potential problems or sources of conflict IN ADVANCE.  Set up expectations and consequences IN ADVANCE.  If your kids are older, get them involved in setting up their own expectations and consequences about their school work.  Work as a team to set healthy boundaries and find a system that will set your kids up for success.  Don’t wait for problems to fester or continue to break your relationship.  Solve the problem as quickly as possible and get ahead of the problems as much as possible.


2. THE ROUTINE TOOL helps you take your expectations about school work and put them into a checklist helping your kids create a routine.  Kids thrive on routines.  Routines help kids’ bodies and minds get into a rhythm.  Routines help their day feel more predictable and provide a sense of safety and security.  Plus, putting their expectations into a routine helps kids grow in responsibility and hard work.  Checklists can be a great visual reminder of your expectations too.

Here are a few checklists we have used to help establish a strong routine. Feel free to print them off and use them or use them as a springboard to create your own checklist specifically for your kids. You can even get them involved in writing them or drawing or cutting out pictures for them too.


3. THE PRACTICE TOOL helps you focus on your job as a parent–teaching and training your kids…preparing them for life…to be responsible, respectful, capable human beings. If your kids aren’t meeting the expectations that you’ve set up as a team, then that simply means they need more practice.  Little kids especially need practice in getting used to their new routines.  Practice their routines together as a team until they feel confident to do them on their own. (This may take a while depending on your child’s personality and temperament. Be patient with them as they learn.).

But with older kids, a conversation could go like this:  “Hey, I’ve noticed you haven’t been showing responsibility in getting your daily checklist done.  Because your’e older and we are a team, is there anything that we need to discuss or change or that I can help you with so that you show responsibility and get your stuff done?  Do we need to practice your checklist Saturday morning before you go play with your friends?  Or do we need to add additional consequences? Or do you feel you’ve got this and just needed a little reminder about the importance of following through with your responsibilities?”  This usually does it.  If not, then practice time it is!  The Practice Tool reminds us that our kids are learning and need more practice…not more punishments.  Just follow through with any consequences that have been set up in advance but focus on helping them practice and improve every day.


4.  THE CONNECTION TOOL is your greatest parenting tool no matter how your kids are getting their schooling done this year.  Remote learning or in-person learning doesn’t change the fact that your kids will always need time with YOU!  The Parent Child Connectedness (PCC) model supports The Connection Tool and is defined as the “quality of the emotional bond between parent and child and by the degree to which this bond is both mutual and sustained over time.” No matter how old our kids are, they value time with you.

Being proactive, developing a strong routine, and allowing your kids to practice that routine will definitely help make this very strange 2020 back-to-school time better.  But making sure to be intentional about spending time together, building that strong relationship with your kids, and solving any problem as a team will help anything…including school work…be even better.  And these tools may just be able to help you be a little bit more patient too!

And if you need help in establishing routines or handling some of this back-to-school stuff, please don’t hesitate to email me or set up a coaching session or two with me.  I’m here to help!

Lord, be near us all as we transition to this back-to-school season.  Guide us in finding a routine that works for our individual family.  Give us patience to be the teacher to our kids that You are calling us to be—not just in school work, but in life work. 

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

CHRISTINE LEEB
Executive Director and Founder of Real Life Families

Marriage and Parenting Coach–Helping Families Build Better Relationships

Bedtime Sticker Chart–Plus, 4 Tips to Make Bedtime Easier

Sometimes I love bedtimes with my kids–books, snuggles, songs, prayers, hugs, kisses and lights out.  And sometimes I hate bedtimes with my kids.  Why is it that everything seems to hurt…at bedtime?  Why is it that suddenly everyone is dying of thirst…at bedtime?  And why is it that bowels seem to need to move…at bedtime?  AAAAAAHHHHH!  It’s enough to make you scream…JUST GO TO BED ALREADY!!!

I have three children and all three of them have had very different bedtime needs.  My husband and I have had to crack the secret code with each kid to figure out what would be the right combination to not only get each child to bed, but keep in child in bed!

Along with prayer, here are a few tips I’ve learned to help bedtimes be less crazy.  I hope these help you too…

  1.  Have a routine:  This helped each of our children get into a bedtime rhythm.  We try to keep bedtime close to the same time every night too and as early as possible–around 7:00pm or 7:30pm for little ones.  It always helped our kids to know what to expect which brought them security and a flow at bedtime.  After dinner, we clean up the house together, do baths, do some family special time like a quick game or a pillow fight or read a book while we have a little snack.  Then it’s go to the bathroom, brush teeth, and get tucked in bed.  In bed, we do the 4-Bedtime Questions–(if we don’t just do these quickly in the car or while they brush their teeth) which gives our kids a chance to talk about their day.  We rub their backs, sometimes sing a quick song or lullaby, say prayers and light out.  Do we do all of this every night? No.  Do we try? Yes.  And that’s all you can do too.  Try to keep bedtime as consistent as possible.
  2. Slow Down:  I’m right there with you.  At bedtime, you just want your kids to freaking go to bed, but I’ve also learned that they sense that which somehow triggers them to recharge and run around the house like goblins.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had somewhere to go after bedtime and those were always the nights where my kids get bit by the Extra Bug–can I have an extra song? an extra hug? an extra drink of water? an extra blanket? an extra stuffed animal? an extra backrub? When I rush, bedtimes don’t go as well.  Slowing down and connecting has really made a positive difference.  
  3. Find what works:  My oldest needed a sticker chart (download below) to help him learn to go to bed when it was time to go to bed.  He would fight bedtime with all his might until we got him a sticker chart.  Every night that bedtime went well, he got a sticker on his chart and got a special tickle time with daddy.  My daughter had trouble staying in bed all night long.  Sticker charts didn’t interest her, but she loved to be tickled.  So every night that she stayed in her bed all night, she got 200 tickles the next day.  Every child is different.  Find what will work for yours.
  4. Build a positive relationship even before bedtime begins:  Prayer, routine, bedtime questions, sticker charts and even 200 tickles can help with bedtime, but making sure that our kids have our time and love throughout the day can be helpful at bedtime too.  Whether you see it as a time bank or a love tank, kids need to feel full with our love and affection.  If they feel empty at bedtime and we’re trying to rush them through the process, they may act out simply to get our attention–even if it’s negative.  However, if we are intentional about filling our kids up throughout the day with giving hugs or encouraging notes or playing catch or helping them with homework or playing a game or reading a book, they will not feel so depleted when it’s time to close their eyes at night.  In fact, we want them to feel as full of our love as possible at the end of each day.  Investing time into our children will always be worth it!

Even though there may still be many “Whack-a-Mole” nights,  it is my prayer that you will be able to work as a team with your child to crack the bedtime code and discover the right combination for unlocking a beautiful, peaceful, and memorable bedtime for your family!

DOWNLOAD A STICKER CHART BELOW

Bedtime Sticker Chart-Boy

Bedtime Sticker Chart-Boy

Bedtime Sticker Chart-Girl

Bedtime Sticker Chart-Girl

 

 

The Bedtime Hoops: 4 Important Questions to Ask Your Kids Every Night

This post first appeared on  Her View From Home

I love my kids, but by bedtime, I’m just exhausted.  At 8pm, my patience shuts off.  It’s like I have some sort of glitch in my parenting code, or maybe I just missed the patience upgrade with each kid or something?

So when I have to jump through so many drinks-of-water hoops, tickle hoops, tuck-in hoops, bedtime-song hoops, pee-pee hoops, and brush-your-freaking-teeth-already hoops, I feel that if they don’t get away from me as soon as possible, I’m going to jump through the I’ve-lost-my-mind hoop and escape into a dimension where only brownies, beaches, and books exist.

But that’s not reality! (Oh how I wish it was sometimes though—minus the losing my mind hoop).    The reality is that parenting doesn’t stop at 8pm.  And even though some of the hoops I jump through annoy me, there are four hoops that I would never miss jumping through no matter how tired or impatient I feel…The 4-Questions Hoops.

I started asking my kids these four questions every night and it has changed our relationship.  It has brought us closer.  It has created a more positive shift in their focus throughout their day and in mine.

  1. What was your favorite part about your day? This question allows us to jump through the hoop of positivity together.  It helps my children focus on the best parts of their day, and gives us another opportunity to reflect on them, laugh even more about them, and find joy in those special moments one more time before they close their eyes.
  2. What was your least favorite part about your day? This question allows us to jump through the hoop of reality together.  No one is perfect.  Everyone makes mistakes, so it’s great to have the opportunity to be real and talk about those things in their day that didn’t go well—bad choices, disrespect, being irresponsible.  This question has allowed for me to model unconditional love and has given me many second-chance teachable moments.  Even if I lost my temper the first time around, I have one more chance to walk them through what they should have done differently.  It’s great for kids to be reminded that tomorrow is a new day to try again.
  3. Do you have any questions about your day? This question allows us to jump through the honesty hoop together.  It establishes a habit of always letting them know that they can ask me anything and can trust me to listen and love.  It shows them that I’m a “safe” person who isn’t going to judge or get angry or be upset if they want to talk about the tough stuff.
  4. How did you show kindness or love today? This question allows us to jump through the integrity hoop together.  It encourages them to be kind and loving to others even when no one is watching.  It is the most powerful, life-changing question I have asked!  My kids have learned just how simple it is and how capable they are of showing kindness or love every single day.  When I first started asking this question, my eight year old had trouble coming up with an answer, so I would step in to tell what I saw him do–he was thoughtful to take his plate to the sink, he played with his sister nicely, he gave his little brother a turn with his squirt gun, he washed his hands the first time I asked him to.  Creating an awareness of the little ways that he can show kindness and love has empowered him to do even more.  Plus, I find myself looking for those positive things that each child does throughout the day so I can share it with them that night.  They love hearing all the great things they’ve done.  Kindness and love…this is the focus I want my kids to have throughout their day!

The 4-Questions hoops have helped me learn more about my kids: baseball game play-by-plays, storm fears, favorite colors and movies. But I have also taught more to my kids:  answering questions about abortion, smoking, appreciating the differences in others and I’ll never forget the night we cried together about a little boy in a wheel chair.

Because of jumping through the 4-Questions hoops of positivity, reality, honesty, and integrity every night, I have laughed louder, cried more, snuggled closer, and taught lessons about life that I would not have had the opportunity to do in the busyness of the day.  Dear parents, at bedtime, won’t you join me in fixing that glitch in your parenting code, upgrading your patience level, bending your knees, and jumping through these four extra hoops with me every night too?  I promise that these are the hoops you will never regret jumping through for your kids.