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

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