A new school year is the perfect time to reflect on years past, ditch what didn’t work and try to implement things you’ve always wanted to try.
It’s important to utilize that fresh start feeling and put it all into action. Here are some simple ways to get started.
Take some time to put away whatever summer clutter you aren’t using anymore. Separate the school clothes from the play clothes. Create an area where backpacks can go. Have a filing system for all of that paperwork coming home. Designate a wall for new artwork, frame the old creations you want to keep and toss what you don’t truly cherish.
ROUTINE – NIGHT
Children thrive on routine. So do most adults. Cash in on their exhaustion to get an early bedtime back into place after the long summer nights. Have some nightly rituals in place that signal sleepy time. Baths are a great way to wind down. Playing music can be relaxing. Limit screen time later in the day if possible. Bedtime is a great time for reading, which is far more slumber inducing than a video. Designate three things you can easily do each night so your children know it’s time for bed.
ROUTINE – MORNING
Morning routine is an entirely different beast than evening. It can be high stress for any family. Add in difficulty with transitions, difficulty following instructions, difficulty getting dressed – no matter what, it’s difficult.
That’s why as exhausted as we are, we need to do whatever we can to keep the stress levels at a minimum in the morning. Our children can sense it and feed off of it. So try to treat everyone with kindness and patience (even though you are screaming on the inside) to help things run smoothly as you make your way out the door.
Preparation is everything. Stay up late or get up early to get breakfast ready, set out clothes, pack lunches, arrange backpacks, administer medication, etc. Don’t be afraid to cut corners either. If a child has a really hard time getting dressed, why not let them sleep in their school clothes? If they refuse to walk to school, will they go by scooter or bike or on your shoulders? While you’re at it, cut your kid a break. It’s hard to know what sort of fear or anxiety they are facing so we need to be their safe place as we help them on their way.
We hear time and time again how so many kids thrive on visual schedules and reward charts. Why not give them a try if you haven’t already? There are all sorts of responsibility charts and calendars available to buy online. You can collaborate with school or private therapists on how to develop a visual schedule to work on trouble spots at home. Difficulty using the bathroom? Trouble with transitions? Need morning guidance? You name it, there is a way to visualize it in an attempt to help your child master these tasks.
CREATE A LEARNING SPACE
Even if your child doesn’t have homework, there are always things to work on at home. A desk or spot at the dinner table isn’t always ideal. Create a space conducive to your child’s learning needs. Some students require a slant board. Others might do better on a beanbag. Others might thrive learning outdoors. A coffee shop could be a great motivator to study as well.
A comfortable location with fun, adaptive tools could help a great deal in learning outside the classroom.
COLLABORATE WITH THE SCHOOL
A new school year often means new teachers. You need to help them get to know your child as well as you. Reach out and talk about how important the school-home connection is. Many of our children lack advanced communication skills. We need the teachers to share what they are learning so we can apply those lessons at home and help our students truly connect. Talk to the teachers. Figure out the best way to share the lesson plans. Explain your needs and concerns with kindness and in a collaborative way.
FIND TIME FOR FUN
Homework is important. Learning is important. But these are still children. Most of them are in school for 6 hours or more. When they come home, they need to have fun too. If you are seeing some troubling behaviors at the beginning of the school year, it’s normal. Make sure your child has time to be a kid. Take them to a playground. Let them paint outside the lines. Take a break from therapy or ask your private therapist to work on something that doesn’t feel like work.