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–
Executive Director and Founder of Real Life Families
Marriage and Parenting Coach–Helping Families Build Better Relationships