Friday, August 9, 2013
I know you always talk about preparing children for the return to school early. Is this early enough? We just got back from a family reunion with crazy schedules and have more vacation we are going to take with our three children before school re-starts. We have one at each level - elementary, middle and high school - so it is a bit of an extra challenge. “Help.”
Ready or not
Dear “ ready or not,”
I love that because the school schedule will be upon us before long. It’s usually a mixed blessing for families, because about now kids can be getting bored, missing friends, but also longing for the lazy days of summer to continue.
You are right about different challenges at the different age levels. I often joke that “tax-free weekend” is your cue that it is time. For all age groups (good luck) adjusting their bed time and wake up times by 10-20 minutes a day will help their internal clocks to adjust. (Ours too.)
It is time to have a sit down meeting with the family and parents with each individual child to discuss specific needs, expectations, concerns, etc. In advance of the meeting have a prepared time schedule, morning and evening routine and curfews for the high schooler. I try to teach everyone to learn to count backwards from the true out of the door time. There should be natural and logical consequences for not meeting the hard deadline, set in advance and in writing. Kids need to learn to be responsible for time management as soon as they are able - or at least the sequence - get up, straighten bed, bathroom, wash hands, breakfast, dress, bathroom, teeth, hair, face and all items going with you, at the door you exit through.
Family prayer is a great way to start the day on a loving note. The order you/they prefer is not as important as getting it completed without contention. I suggest that clothes are set out the night before, special clothes for P.E., instruments are packed and by the door, and all homework, papers signed (money needs) also prepared and packed the night before - with all items in a designated spot by your exit (but not in the way for emergencies.).
If people stick to this type of order and discipline, mornings can be, well, pleasant. I don’t want to be morose but I like people to say farewell for the day in the calmest most loving manner.
Heaven forbid, but if this were to be your last encounter, do it in a way where there will be no regrets. Hard to hear, but trust me, working with families with loss for so long has taught me how precious this is.
Once a month (or week) if necessary, meet with the family and each child, to make adjustments as necessary.
One last organization suggestion: kids and adults seem to be busier than ever. I love people to get a huge school year calendar and different color thin markers (maybe a color for each family member or color for each category). As soon as a deadline, test, exam, project, concert, game, match, school event, medical/dental appointment (etc.) is made, it goes on the master calendar.
Make sure every family takes responsibility to check the calendar daily. I also urge all students to use a calendar and learn how to put deadline dates on it, then plan backwards with mini deadlines leading up to the final one with what needs to be completed, benchmarks.
These important lessons on being personally responsible, managing time, managing obligations and planning are invaluable for life success, and family peace. Good luck and let me know what works for you.
Contact Liz via firstname.lastname@example.org. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Master degree level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health.