Parenting for an #Epic Back to School Transition
As August winds down in the northern hemisphere, we parents begin to prepare ourselves for a number of inevitable changes to the rhythms of life of the last several weeks. As the sun wakes later and ducks behind the horizon earlier, we begin to feel a difference in the air which signals not only the approach of Autumn weather but also screams that the back to school transition is upon us.
I am married to a teacher and as such, I zealously horde my vacation days and arrange my work life to be able to enjoy as much time off in the summer as possible with my wife and kids.
This year, that has meant weeks of time together as a family following our passions, enjoying the outdoors together, sleeping in, eating ice cream, and hanging with friends and family. The memories we have made, bonds we have strengthened, treats we have enjoyed, and experiences had as a family have all been precious, impactful, and best of all shared.
This relatively relaxed existence will come to an abrupt halt once September hits and the kids, my wife, and myself hop back onto the superhighway of our family’s life during the school year. Even though we all know it’s coming, back to school can be a major shock to the system if we don’t start accelerating the pace of life a little over the last 2-3 weeks of August. The following are things that my wife and I do to try to gradually pick up speed as a family so that we can merge smoothly into the back to school transition and set our kids (and ourselves) up for success.
Ease back into Bedtime and Waking Routines
I am sure that our kids are no different from millions of others in that they have absolutely reveled in the opportunities to stay up and sleep in late that summer freedom allows. We have enjoyed late night campfires, stargazing, visiting with friends and other moonlit summer fun and we have taken advantage of many opportunities to sleep in well past what we would be able to most of the year.
About 2 weeks before the kids have to head back to school, we all begin easing ourselves back into a bedtime and waking schedule that is more in line with the school year’s schedule. My wife will often schedule the kids into morning swimming lessons, or camp activities at this time, in part to help facilitate our commitment to adjusting our schedules. I really appreciate that she does this as it allows all of us the chance to reset our body clocks and get ready for back to school.
Another approach we have used successfully to reset our schedules is to begin adjusting the kids’ bedtime and waking schedules by 10-15 minutes each day, for about 2 weeks, until everyone is back on track with the school year schedule. Don’t forget to look after yourselves too during this body clock reset and get the rest you need since back to school can be a stressful time for parents too!
Help Put Everything on a Family Calendar
Again, props to my wife here as she has shown me the light over the last decade about the absolute necessity for a huge family calendar hanging at eye level in our kitchen. We have just unwrapped our 2017-2018 busy family calendar and the blank dates that stare back at us for September will soon be filled with all kinds of school and extracurricular activities.
I will be the first to admit I used to try to keep all of this information in my head. I mean how hard can it be to remember when field trips happen, hot lunch money is due, hockey try-outs start, dance lessons begin, and football equipment handout is? We used to have many conversations like the following around the Esteves’ household, and sometimes they still happen despite the best-laid plans:
“What do you mean we have a scheduling conflict with meet the teacher night? When do piano lessons happen again? Are we supposed to get a call from the bus driver this week? By the way dear, I am going to be gone for a week in October for work …”
One of the commitments I am making to my wife and kids this year is to help out by helping out with the family calendar as much as humanly possible this coming school year. If it’s happening at school or work and will have an impact on the family, it goes on the calendar.
Kick Start Your Kids’ Brains
As a family, we worked on fitting in some bed time reading and other formal learning activities in during the summer months in order to mitigate the “summer slide” for school skills. To be completely honest though, we weren’t fanatical about it and our kids enjoyed some time off from the grind of school and home reading, writing and, arithmetic. Kids learn a lot from play and from the time they spend in summer activities with their buds and family members fishing, camping, driving, hiking, biking, at the “skate” park, etc. The value of these kinds of experiences is immeasurable and I look forward to those times during the fall, winter and spring months to continue to share them with my kids.
As the kids’ first day of the new school year comes ever closer though, our family has committed to bringing back to the forefront some habits, skills, and learning activities like reading before lights out, and some reflective journaling / writing challenges which will hopefully make the transition back into the classroom easier for the kids.
If you are able, schedule a time in the evening to sit with your kid at the kitchen table and talk about their day, what they are enjoyed most about the summer and what they are looking forward to about the school year. Have them write some of these things down for you. Not only will you be working on great academic skills, you will be assisting them in getting used to sitting still and focusing on a task related to learning and being successful in the classroom. Helping my son and daughter acclimate to the classroom environment is always one of the things I worry the most about as a parent of active kids coming off a relaxed and fun filled summer!'Asking your children about their fears and worries about heading abck to school will help share their burdern.' Chuck NorrisClick To Tweet
Get Back to Healthy Eating
If your family is anything at all like ours, your stock and consumption of hot dogs, chips, marshmallows and ice cream sky rockets in the summer months. These staples of the campground and BBQ certainly fuel many of our fun filled days and nights and to be honest, I wouldn’t change a thing about it. With the return of the school year, comes the opportunity to help my wife with family focused healthy eating once again.
As a dad, one thing I can step up to help out with is the daily task of prepping healthy lunches for the family. This certainly isn’t my favorite thing to do during the school year and becomes a bit of a grind after a time but I am committing to my help pull this task from my wife’s already full plate for the coming school year.
I am also looking forward to developing the practice of prepping healthy meals for the coming week with my wife. This is something we have tried previously but we struggled to maintain it as we gave in to business and tiredness. When we were doing this, it was fantastic to have a week or more worth of suppers ready to go, especially on the days where the kids are involved in dance, hockey, piano, etc. They say that stating some goals publicly like I just did, is one of the keys to staying committed. Wish me luck!
Make Contact With Your Child’s Teacher – ASAP!
One of the keys to a successful school year for everyone: your child, yourself, and your kids’ teachers is to open a supportive and collaborative approach to communication and working together to educate your children.
As soon as you can, make it a point to have a conversation with your child’s teacher. It’s tempting to sit back and wait for the teacher to make the first move as a busy parent. It’s also easy to fall prey to idea that no news is good news, and that if the teachers need to talk to me – they will.
Our kids’ happiness and success at school is important to their emotional, academic, social, and physical well being. It is so important that we involve ourselves in supporting our kids, and their teachers, as they work together to help our children learn and grow as people. I am not advocating a bulldozer or helicopter parent approach here to our involvement in our kids’ time at school.
What I do know is that from my long experience of working in and around classrooms is that positive parental interest and involvement has a direct correlation to a kid’s success and happiness in school (and life).
Find out how your kids’ teachers like to be communicated with. Is it email? Phone calls? Face to face meetings? Offer you support, encouragement, and let them know about your child’s likes, dislikes, challenges, and talents. Let them know what you can and are willing to do to help make the school year successful for everyone. This kind of inside information is absolute gold for a teacher and can really help set up your children for success at school.
For example, one of my kids struggles if they are surprised with new situations or requirements that they haven’t been prepped for – especially ones which might require sharing in front of the class. As parents we help their teacher be aware of this so that they can structure things to help my child feel prepped and “ready to rock”. In our experience, no teacher enjoys setting kids up to fail.
The other child needs to have their voice heard. They dig their heels in and fight hard against anything they don’t understand or that they feel is unfair where they haven’t been able to verbalize their thoughts and talk through them with a trusted adult. As parents we understand that this isn’t always possible in a busy classroom and school setting. We let our child’s teacher know that they may just see this behaviour manifest itself, what the root cause is, and that we are working at home with our child to understand that sometimes you just have to follow some “orders” from adults and that you can always respectfully talk about things later. We let our child’s teacher know that we expect our kid to listen to their directions (especially around classroom rules and school safety concerns) but also ask that they be open to follow up conversations with them and us if we or they have questions.
Forgive me for using a big brush here to paint some broad strokes with my next comments but in general, dads we can do a better job of being connected to our kids’ teachers. Next to their parents, these trusted adults will have the most profound impact on our kids over the next 9-10 months and will spend more time with them during the weekdays than we will. Connect with them, get to know them, appreciate, support, and be there for them and your kid as they work together to spark a love for lifelong learning! Your kids will notice.“Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.” Jacques BarzunClick To Tweet
Live in the Moment
Ok this one might seem counterintuitive but, appreciate the days that you still have before the back to school grind begins. Don’t let worrying about buying school supplies, making sure sports equipment and dance shoes fit, and getting in the nightly reading become all consuming and stressful. If you have a chance to spend a few more leisurely days and evenings together, do so. If you can connect with nature and loved ones while doing so, even better.
Our kids grow up, change, and are gone on to their own lives within a relatively short and intense period of our lives. My wife and I help each other stay grounded in the enjoyment of the “little things” and the appreciation of the ordinary. She helps me remember that even though there may be one million and six things that need to be done before the kids head back to school next month, this August, this day, this age, and these laughs are priceless and will never happen in exactly the same way again. I love her for her reminders to stop and just enjoy these remaining slower moments with our kids.
What do you do?
My wife and I certainly don’t believe that we have the regaining the back to school rhythm game all figured out. We’d love to hear from you and your thoughts about setting your kids up for an #epic back to school experience.
Please leave us a comment here on the blog or shoot us a message over at the Epic Dads Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/epicdads.net/