It doesn't matter whether you are sending your child off to college for the first time, or your two year old is starting a two-day preschool program, a new school year is just around the corner. Some children love school, while others dread it. Growing up, I was one of those weird kids that loved school. Every year at about this time, my mother would take me school shopping for new clothes and school supplies. I don't know if it was the shopping I loved, or the anticipation of a new school year.
In my own home growing up and in our family today, we take our education seriously. Although my boys are not quite as willing and excited as I was about school, I still work to instill good success habits. Here are some ideas you can use with your children to ensure a successful school year.
Establish Solid Morning, After School and Bedtime Routines
I first learned about the importance of solid routines when I was raising my oldest son Kai. In the third grade, Kai was diagnosed with ADHD. Keeping my son focused enough to get ready for school and do his homework required consistency and structure. I made up sheets of paper that listed every step he should take in the morning, after school, and before bed. When setting up routines, be specific and follow the same routine all the time. Routines establish good habits in children and adults.
Teach Your Children How to Set Goals
Once your children are old enough, give them a beginner's course in setting goals for themselves. Keep it simple with children under age 12. Ask them to set one academic goal and one behavioral goal. For instance, I will work to get a B in Math this year or I will read 15 minutes every day. Good behavioral goals can focus on respecting other people, increasing confidence, or being more helpful. As your child gets older, he or she can learn to set larger goals that require more action steps, or increase the number of goals. Help your children create a colorful goals sheet or vision board as a reminder of what they are working on.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Communication with your child and his teachers is critical to your child's success. Last school year was not an easy one for my younger son. We were in constant communication with his teacher, working together to shape his character in and out of school. Some children will voluntarily share what's on their mind, but many children internalize their experiences and feelings. Learn to ask them open ended questions instead of closed ended questions like "How was school?" Questions that can be easily answered with yes, no or fine don't allow us to get inside our child's world. Keep yourself emotionally available and non-judgmental so your children feel comfortable sharing. I've always found children are more prone to share at bedtime and during active playtime.
Stay Tuned In to Your Child's Interests and Talents
Every child is unique. While some thrive in sports, others are more prone to musical, academic or artistic abilities. Pay attention to what gives your children energy, and what activities they naturally gravitate towards. Nurture those interests and talents so they feel confident about being good in something. Help them to define who they are and what makes them special. There is so much competition and comparisons in schools today. Steer your children away from comparing themselves to others, and instead encourage them to compete with their own personal best. For example, when I took my son and a friend bowling, we didn't compete against each other. In the second game, we tried to beat our score from the first game.
Minimize Your Child's Stressors
There are so many things that can cause stress for children today. Whether it's the pressure of difficult or excessive schoolwork, bullies at school, or intense competition in extracurricular activities, stress will affect the entire family. Pay attention to what might be causing stress for your child. Eliminate the stressor or teach your children effective stress management techniques. Learning how to plan better can help minimize some homework stress. Minimizing extracurricular activities keeps a family balanced. Teaching your children how to control their mind by thinking flexible thoughts, and keeping fears and anxieties under control can go a long way towards alleviating stress. Educate your child about the importance of healthy eating, exercise and proper sleep. But most important, take care of yourself so you can model peaceful family living.
As my youngest enters the second grade, and my eldest begins his first year in college, I am anticipating a successful school year. With these tips, you and your children can look forward to and celebrate success as they enter a new school year.