When Our Kids Don’t Want to Go to School–4 Tools to Try

My daughter is really struggling being away from me every day for Kindergarten.  She loves it once she gets there and gets her day going in her classroom but dropping her off is just heartbreaking.  She’s the kid screaming and crying and running back to hug me one more time and clinging to my leg.  Today, they had to have two teachers pull her down the hallway to her classroom.  She was screaming and crying the whole time.

It’s HARD!  That’s how my day starts…every day!  It totally brings me back to the days when I didn’t want to leave my mom for school either.  In fact, my mom reminded me of the time when I locked her out of the car.  Of course, she was wearing a robe and curlers in her hair in her version of the story.  School was a struggle for me, and now it’s a struggle for my little girl.

In praying for wisdom, here’s what I’ve done, realized, said, or tried.  If you have kids struggling with school or any kind of separation anxiety, I hope these tips helps you too…

First of all, our job as parents isn’t to change our children’s emotions.  Our job isn’t to convince our kids to want to do something.  Our job isn’t to be pushy and demanding nor telling them they should feel a certain way.  “School is fun!”  “You should be happy to go!”  “You love to see your friends.”  “You always have so much fun once you get there.”  Not helpful.

Our job isn’t to make them feel shameful for how they feel “Stop it. You are the only kid crying.”  “Look at you–you’re the ONLY KID crying!”  Our job isn’t to compare them to other kids “Look–all your friends are going in without crying.”  We definitely don’t want to plant the seed of “you do something because ALL the other kids are/aren’t doing it”.  Our children are unique individuals with their own unique feelings.

We want to be a safe person who our kids can come to no matter how they feel.  I don’t like it when someone tries to change how I feel or tells me I should or shouldn’t feel a certain way.  I just want to be listened to…understood…empathized with.  Our kids need the same from us.  Our job is to empathize with them and teach them strategies for what to do when they do feel anxious.

Empathy Tool

  1. THE EMPATHY TOOL 
  • “I totally understand how you feel. Let’s talk more about why you feel that way.”
  • “I’m here to listen.  Tell me how you’re feeling.”
  • “I know how you feel.  I used to feel upset or a little nervous about going to school too. Do you want a hug?”
  • “It’s ok to be sad. Tell me more about your sad feelings.

Allowing kids to express their emotions actually helps to release their emotions (not suck them in and store them up for later). Plus, if you say these things with affection…you are helping their brains calm. Plus, empathy doesn’t create a power struggle like convincing does and it gives our kids the power to express their emotions and calm down when they’re ready…not because we are making them.

Prayer Tool

2.  THE PRAYER TOOL

“Let’s pray together.”  Remind them that God’s love and presence is always with them.   They are never alone.  He is always there to comfort them when they are sad or feel lonely.  Help them find comfort in God’s word.  Give them empowering Bible verses to memorize or write them down and put them in their backpack. The verse I used for separation anxiety was from Joshua 1:9–Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord, Your God, is with you wherever you go.

Reminding our kids that they can rely on God for comfort and peace can empower them to be confident for anything!

The Teamwork Tool

3.  THE TEAMWORK TOOL

Let’s remind our kids that, just like God, we love them and are here to work as a team to figure out a way to make going to school better.  Especially when it’s something kids have to do, we can say:  “I totally understand you don’t want to go.  You don’t have to want to go, but you are going to go to school. Let’s work as a team to help make it better.”  I used this tool with my daughter and we came up with a list of things she can do.  Remember, it’s not me forcing her not to cry, it’s me comforting her and helping her to feel strong and capable in finding a solution.

  • To help her remember that I’m always in her heart and she’s always in mine, we decided that we could give each other “heart hugs”.  I told her whenever she felt warmth in her heart, that was me giving her a “heart hug” from home and she could do the same for me.
  • To help her feel close to me, we decided she could keep a picture of me or a picture of our family in an envelope for her to look at throughout the day.

Age Tool (4)

4.  THE AGE TOOL

Every day, our kids are a day older.  And every day, we can look at that day as an opportunity to try anything again.  So, yes, even though they cried yesterday at drop-off, doesn’t mean that they will or that they have to cry today.  “You’re a day older today…how do you feel about going to school today? Do you think you’re old enough to walk to your classroom on your own?”  I’m not trying to teach her to stop crying.  Remember it’s OK for our kids to be sad…it’s OK for them to miss us.  We are in no way trying to teach them that expressing their emotions are bad.  But it’s the process of teaching them coping skills for when they do feel sad.

And my daughter absolutely can still cry and be sad, but it’s the fit-throwing and having to be dragged down the hallway by several teachers into her classroom that we are trying to help her through.  I want to teach her to be sad, but to also be brave at the same time and show self-control.  Boldness and bravery are not in the absence of sadness. They can coexist.

Kids need to know that every day, they are a day older and every day they get more and more capable, smart and confident to learn, grow, and improve.

Kids need to feel empowered that they can solve their problems and that we will be someone to comfort them, pray for them, and work as a team with them to find a solution to ease their angst.

I can’t be pushy with my daughter even though I want her to go in the school without making a scene.  Pushing her–or any strong-willed kid–before she’s ready will only make things worse.  It’s certainly not easy, but I do have peace that if I can be patient and focus on teaching her and empowering her…one day, she will stop crying at drop-off when she’s ready…and not a second sooner.  This is her journey, and I’m just here to teach her, be patient with her, and help her through it.

Lord, give our kids the confidence they need in You.  Bring peace to their anxious hearts and help us to be there to pray for them, bless them with Your word, love them, and encourage them.  

Here’s to building better families—

Christine

When Your Child Asks: “What’s My Purpose in Life?”

Every day, I walk my son to the corner for school.  We chat about the weather and make observations about nature around us.  And I always tell him how much I love him and pray for him.  It’s the same prayer I pray every day and it’s the same prayer I pray for him at bedtime:

“May God bless you and keep you safe and healthy.  May He watch over you and guide you and help you to make kind and loving choices for yourself and for others.  And may you always know that you have a very special purpose in life and so does everyone else.”

Today, as I put my arm around him and prayed as we walked, he asked me a question…

“Mommy, what is my purpose in life?”

I’ve prayed that prayer for him every single day this school year and this is the first time he has asked me that question.  And it’s a good one…one for all of us to ask ourselves.

I said, “Well, God will reveal specifically how He wants to use you with the gifts He has purposely given you as you grow older, but while you’re waiting, you are called to love God, love yourself, and love others.  And in fact, that calling on your life will never change.  No matter how old you are or what you do with your life or what your circumstances are, you can always love God, love yourself, and love others.  Isn’t that awesome?”

I’m not sure if he truly understood how awesome that is, but his “Ok” told me that he at least understood a little bit.  After all, he’s only almost 9 and it took me almost 40 years of my life to truly understand that.

But today, at least a seed was planted.  And I just pray it grows as he grows.  And as life gets messy and confusing and uncertain at times, I pray that he will always know with certainty his very special purpose in this world…loving God, loving himself, and loving others…no matter what!  And that will bring him contentment and even joy in all things.

What a great lesson for all of us.

Lord, Your greatest commandment to us is to love You with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. (from Matthew 22:37-39) That is our greatest purpose in life.  We can all do this no matter how old we are, what life stage we are in, or what our crazy circumstances bring.  Help us to love You, love the person we see in the mirror, and love the people you have placed right in front of us.  And give us wisdom to teach our kids to do the same.  

Here’s to building better families together!
Christine

When Our Kids Complain

My oldest complains about everything.  Seriously, we could tell him that we’re going to a park or going out for ice cream and he would find something to complain about.  It’s really frustrating.

Of course, I want my son to be able to express his opinions about how he feels.  Of course, I want him to know that it’s OK to have thoughts and feelings that are different than everyone else.  Of course, I want him to know that it’s OK to not want to do something or go somewhere.

But complaining about everything was getting exhausting.

When kids are babies, they “complain” by crying or throwing a fit when they have a need or don’t get their way, and it’s our job to teach them to use their words instead of melting down.

We guide them by giving them their “lines.”

“Mommy, could I please have more juice?” 

Not that they will get more juice, but we are at least giving them the right words to say to be kind and respectful when they make their request.

When kids can use their words as they get older, then what?  Do we still give them their lines?

Absolutely, we do!  Not only do we give them the words, we give the tone at which to say those words too, right?

The tone we use means just as much, if not more, than the words we say.  

So when my son does complain about going to get ice cream (as crazy as it is), instead of getting angry and frustrated at him like I used to, I calmly and respectfully say:

  • “Can you try to say it again in a respectful way?”  This gives him an opportunity to think about how he is sharing his opinion if he didn’t share it respectfully with his words and tone the first time.   I will happily give him his lines if he can’t think of what to say or how to say it.
  • “I understand that getting ice cream may not be your favorite thing to do right now.”  This validates his feelings.
  • “And you don’t have to want to come.”  This respects his opinion and lets him know that I’m not out to change it.
  • “But you are a member of our family and we love you, so you will be joining us but you don’t have to eat ice cream or have fun if you don’t want to.”  (Can you believe that I actually have said these words???)  This again respects his opinion not to eat ice cream.  This also reinforces our unconditional love for him and our desire to spend time with him no matter what!

We may not always understand why our kids complain about things that don’t need to complain about or why they have the opinions that they have.  And we sure can’t make our kids want to do something.

In fact, it’s not our job to change our kids’ opinions at all. It’s our job to respect their opinions and to teach them how to share their opinions in a way that respects us.

And more importantly, it’s our job to show them that we love them unconditionally and want to be with them…even if they complain and don’t want to eat ice cream with us.

Lord, thank you for the gift of our words and our ability to express them in a way that honors You.  May we always model gracious words to our children.  May they be like a honeycomb–sweet to their souls.  May they bring health to their bodies (Proverbs 16:24).  Remind us that we say matters.  Guide us in teaching our kids about the power of their own words and expressing their own opinions without complaining but with respect and with love.  

**And by the way, when I’ve learned to respect my son’s opinion and not try to change it, my son has eaten ice cream with us every single time.  🙂

Here’s to building better families–
Christine

The Giving Box

Several years ago in our family, we started The Giving Box. What is The Giving Box, you ask?  I’m so glad you asked!

Raise your hand if you have too much stuff.  Me, me, me!  It seems that no matter what I do, I just can’t keep up with all the stuff in our house. Every gift-giving holiday brings a little anxiety as we don’t have room for the stuff we already have…especially toys.  We are so blessed but too many things can feel burdensome–especially when I think about those who have nothing or very little.

I want our kids to understand how blessed they are. I want them also to understand that having more and more things is not what this life is about.  If we have abundance or too much of something, we should give it to those who could use it or appreciate it more than we do…enter The Giving Box.

Every December, we put out a Giving Box (plastic tub or laundry basket) and see how many times we can fill it with things we can donate.  Last year, we filled it four times!  I’m challenging my kids to fill it more times this year.

Teaching our kids to have a heart to give doesn’t take much…

  • always having $1 handy for the Salvation Army bell ringer.
  • bringing a homeless man a meal.
  • participating in toy drives, book drives, or canned food drives.
  • bringing chicken soup to a sick friend.
  • putting $1 in the offering plate at church.
  • volunteering at a soup kitchen.

But teaching our kids to have a heart to give does take us.  We have to be the ones to set the example.  We have to be the ones to place an importance on giving.  We have to give first and then they will follow our lead.

You can work as a team with your family to teach the beauty of giving to others too.  Giving is about love, thoughtfulness, and compassion.  Giving is about understanding that there is a world outside of ourselves that our kids can be a part of helping.  Giving is about God in motion.  We are His hands and feet and so when we teach our kids to give, not only are we modeling teamwork, but we are modeling a calling to give as we are able.

How to use The Giving Box with your family:

  1. Get a box, laundry basket, or large tub or storage bin. Attach a sign that says “The Giving Box.”
  2. Bring your family together and share how blessed that you are as a family to have each other and that people are more important than things.
  3. Let them know that together, as a team/family, you are going to see how many times you can fill The Giving Box with things from around the house.
  4. Choose a local charity where you will be donating your items. Research the charity together so you know how your things are going for the greater good.
  5. Work as a team to go through every closet, every cabinet. Clean out toys, books, clothes, shoes, hats, gloves, coats, pots, pans…everything you own should be gone through!
  6. Keep track of how many times the box is filled and do a family hug each time you’ve filled it.

The Giving Box–what a great way to get rid of things in your home, bless others, and be blessed as you work as a team to give!

THE GIVING BOX SIGN AND DIRECTIONS
Lord, you say to give as we are able.  You say to give generously.  Open our hearts to the ways you want us to give generously using the gifts you have given us.  Show us ways we can use our time, our resources, and even our prayers to help others.  And may our acts of giving reflect your light and love onto our children so that their hearts would beam with the desire to give.

Here’s to building better families–

Christine

 

 

 

Here’s to building better families-

Christine

3 Reasons Our Kids Need Routine

Kids need routine.  I’m not talking about planning out every single minute of their day to the point where you rob your kids of all creativity, freedom, or spontaneity.  I’m talking about having a plan that kids can follow during certain times of the day in order to help them be more productive and help your life be less crazy.

During the school year, it is especially important for kids to have routines.  In our home, we have a morning routine, an after-school routine, and a bedtime routine.  We have checklists everywhere to make sure that they know exactly what to do.

Here’s why routine is so important…

  1. Routine creates security:  When we do the same things over and over in the same way, kids feel more secure.  That’s why little ones ask us to read the same books over and over and over and over and over.  I had Brown Bear, Brown Bear memorized because no matter how many times I read it, my kids wanted me to read it again and again.  There is security in familiarity.  Routines help the day become familiar.  And kids become more confident when they know what to expect and when they can predict what comes next.
  2. Routine encourages responsibility:  It is important for kids to know what is expected of them.  Whether it’s chores or homework or what they need to do at bedtime, establishing a routine allows them to take the responsibility for getting the job done.
  3. Routine fosters independence:  It is not our job to do everything for our kids–after all, we do want them to grow up to be self-sufficient, responsible adults.  But it is our job to teach them what to do, how to do it, and then let them go from there.  We want them to eventually be able to do everything without our guidance.  And routine helps.  With a solid routine in place, kids feel more empowered to manage their own time and their own responsibilities.

So, how do you create strong routines in your home?

  • First of all, identify “problem” areas or times of day where your family would benefit from a routine.
  • Write down everything that you would like for your kids to do.
  • Create a short, simple checklist (use pictures for younger kids) to help get their routine in order.
  • Read through the checklist with your kids to check for understanding.  You can also ask them if they have anything to add (this makes them feel important getting to share their thoughts and opinions).
  • In the beginning, have them practice going through the checklist with your guidance.  Remind them to look at their checklist.  “Have you done everything on your after-school checklist?”  Check their “work”.
  • Once they have learned the routine, you can give them some space.  You may need to remind or encourage them every once in a while.  And by the way, it’s OK to let your kids forget things from time to time–there will be natural consequences–especially when it comes to school work.  Or for frequent forgetfulness, you may need to introduce a small, fair consequence to boost that responsibility factor.

Hopefully, with practice, you will be able to watch your secure, responsible, independent children flowing through their routines and checking things off their checklists.  And eventually, you will find that your kids will know their routine so well, they won’t even need the checklists anymore.

And then, maybe…just maybe, you will have more time to just sit back, relax, and enjoy a brownie!  🙂 Ha.

Here’s to building better families-

Christine

Family Fun Summer Challenge

I know that we have all spent so much time together because of COVID-19, but I hope you and your family saw the benefit of slowing down and making FAMILY a priority.  Kids need to see family as important and as a valuable way to spend their time so when we continue to spend time together even when we don’t necessarily have to, our kids will continue to find significance and belonging where they need it most…as part of their family team.

Need simple, creative ideas on ways to connect?  Let Real Life Families help you this summer!  Starting June 20th, we will send you a short and sweet email once a week for 8 weeks with some fun ideas.  That’s it.

Choose your family over other things that could “busy up” your time. Choose fun times. Choose building memories. Choose connection and fun!

Are you ready to connect with your family this summer?

Sign up for our Summer Date Night Challenge too with ideas to connect with your spouse!