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

What Our Anxious Kids Need During COVID-19

It is certainly frightening times…things are so uncertain…there are so many unknowns.

All the mask-wearing, school and event-cancelling, and deadly virus-talking is enough to make anyone anxious.

It’s no surprise that my daughter has started pulling out her eyelashes again.  She struggles with an obsessive compulsive anxiety condition called Trichotillomania.  We had started to make so much progress through counseling and even tools I’ve developed, and for months, she had completely stopped hair-pulling.  And now this…

Sometimes there is no tool and not enough counseling to completely halt anxious feelings or the actions that go along with it.  That’s the life of an anxious child. But really, that’s just life.  It’s unpredictable.  It’s imperfect. And it can be very frustrating.

If you or your kids are struggling during this time, first of all, you are not alone. I’m right there with you!

But there are some tools we can use to make things a little better and ease some of our child’s anxiety (and even our own):

1. The Prayer Tool

God reminds us in Philippians 4:6-7 not to worry about anything, but instead pray about everything. We can come alongside our kids who tend to worry and remind them about the power of prayer.  Pray with them. Ask God to protect your family and your loved ones and watch over our whole community and world. What a great example of putting our worry energy into prayer energy.

  • A simple prayer for worry to teach kids:
    • God, please take my worries away
    • and watch over me and my family every day. 

You can pray with your child. You can also remind them to pray on their own. You can even give them a journal/diary where they can write or draw out their worries or prayers. Set up a little time every day to pray and talk about their anxious feelings together.

Anxious kids need to get their anxious thoughts and feelings out (otherwise that anxiousness will turn to anger.) Yikes!

2. The Routine Tool

Most kids thrive on routine, but anxious kids especially need routine. Routines are predictable and make kids feel secure.  And in such an unpredictable time, why not give them something they can count on.  Now that we are all home together all day every day, take time to create a routine in your day together. For our family, our routine basically revolves around regularly scheduled meals. On most days, everything in between is just play time. But when we need more structure in our day, I give them a sticky note of chores.  Then they need to complete their checklist before they have any TV or electronic time. And of course, any chore completion is always better with teamwork, so it’s OK to work with your kids to Team Clean their rooms with them or turn on some fun, dance music and do the house-cleaning together.

Your anxious child may complain about the chores (which is normal), but will definitely thrive on having the routine—even if it is a relatively loose one like ours.

3. The Connection Tool

Routine is definitely helpful for chores and schoolwork, but so is intentionally planning on some one-on-one time with our kids as well as time together as a whole family! The best thing we can do with our anxious children is to reassure them of our love and attention.  That is certainly one way that God is making all things good in this situation. For more ideas of ways to connect as a family or with your kids individually, you can print out these 2 resources and use them as a checklist:

The more we point our kids to the Source of our peace through prayer, the more we can create some routine and normalcy in their days, and the more fun and light-hearted moments we can provide will not only build our relationship with our anxious child stronger, but will also ease their anxiety longer.

Lord, you are the Source of our Peace…even during times of fear and uncertainty. Remind us that our anxious kids feed off our own anxious thoughts and words. Be our Source of Peace. Remind us to pray about everything and be grateful for what You are doing in our families during this time.

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine