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

Children’s Quarantine Anger

I want to make this short and sweet because if you’re like me, you feel very bombarded with information, and “things you must do”, and “things you must NOT do”, and finishing up schoolwork, and work. Oh and also parenting kids who have been cooped up and wonder why they can’t go to the playground or over to a friend’s house.

Life just feels weird right now. All of our emotions are high…and kids are going to share their emotions in quite a variety of ways…some sweet, some annoying…some whining…some raging. And sometimes you just never know what you’re going to get!

It’s hard. This is hard on all of us. And sometimes it’s easy to get angry or yell.  But there are better strategies…better tools we can use.

1. THE REWIND TOOL

If kids don’t do the right thing the first time, just simply ask them to rewind and try it again. We do not have to allow disrespect or disobedience in our home, but we also don’t have to issue consequences every time they do anything “wrong”. Our kids are learning, so why not give them “on the spot” training and have them do it again. This way they can experience success right away while also knowing that you are not going to allow their inappropriate behavior. By the way, with strong-willed kids, you may have to rewind many, many times. “Nothing else will happen in your day until you choose to try this again respectfully. Thank you.”

2. THE PRACTICE TOOL

The Rewind Tool is great if our kids say something or do something that needs to be done again to get it right. But The Practice Tool is very intentional time you set aside to practice the skills and character traits you want to instill in your kids. You can do this at a Family Meeting each week where you play a Listening and Obeying game. Or before they get on an electronic device, you have them quickly practice what they will say when you say it’s time to turn it off. For kids to get better at things, they need to practice them. Why not have them practice getting better at being obedient or respectful or helpful or kind?

Now is the time to practice better tools and better reactions. The longer we are all cooped up together, the more time we have to teach them better responses and build better relationships with them.  Let’s use this time to our full advantage.

It is my prayer that The Rewind Tool and The Practice Tool brings less anger as well as shorter fits and sweeter moments to your parenting interactions this week! We’re all in this together, parents.

Lord, You know what we each need to be the calm parent You are calling us to be. Bring Your patience and kindness into our homes and Your peace into our hearts. 

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

For more tools in the Teamwork Parenting Approach, click here. 

3 Ways to Teach Kids to Be Patient

I’ll admit that I am not the poster parent for patience.  And while we’re at it…our world isn’t advertising patience to our kids either.  In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Everything is instant.  Hello—snap chat, instant messaging, and Amazon 2-day shipping.  I mean, right?  If I have to wait more than 2 days for something to be shipped to me, I’m all like….WHAT???

Well, patience may not be expected in our world all the time, but it sure should be expected in our homes and from our kids and while we’re at it…from ourselves.  The Character Tool in our Teamwork Parenting Approach teaches us to focus our parenting and our expectations in our family on character traits and patience is a big one! But how do we teach patience?  Especially when we may not be a patient parent?

Well, it takes teamwork.  I believe that everything in our homes takes teamwork.  Here are 3 ways to work as a family to encourage more patience…

1.  Define patience:  When we say “Wait” or “Be patient” to our kids, it’s like they hear us saying: “You’re never going to EVER get what you’re asking for.”  And that’s not fun for kids to hear.  So we just simply need to train them on what “Wait” or “Be patient” actually means.  Yes, at times it may mean that they may never EVER get something they’ve asked for–especially if they ask to play with a knife or eat 8 suckers.  But in general, it means that they will get what they’re asking for but that they are simply being asked to wait.

2.  Present patience as a skill:  Once they understand the concept of waiting, then, we can really pump it up as something they get to practice and get better at. “You’re 4 now.  When mommy/daddy asks you to wait, you can practice being so patient now that you’re older.”  When it’s a skill that they can always improve on, then it’s more empowering for them to “get better at it.”  It turns patience from something you’re just asking them to do into something that they can do for themselves and be good at it.

3.  Give examples of patient behaviors:  Take time to introduce moments in life when they will use the skill of patience–restaurants, doctor’s offices, God’s timing, etc.  Don’t give examples while they are in a fit because you’ve said “no” or asked them to wait because they won’t hear you. But wait for calm moments throughout your day and find opportunities in your daily life to point out patience—you can say: “Look at the spider patiently waiting on his web for a meal.” Or–“It’s so frustrating when we have to wait for a train, but it’s a good thing we can be patient.” And the best part is to point out moments when your kids do choose to show patience so they can recognize patient behaviors in themselves.

Then, as a team, you can make a list of things they can do when they are asked to wait so they can look at being patient as an opportunity to do something else with their time.

Working with your kids to encourage patience in waiting will help your whole family be more patient in waiting too.  Because dang, I’ve learned to be more patient simply because I know my kids are watching and learning…and so are yours.  😉

Lord, we live in an impatient, high-speed, fast-expectations world.  But through You, we can be still.  We can be patient.  We can be kind.  And that’s the kind of love we want in our homes. 

Here’s to building better families–

Christine