I am writing this on August 8th and my kids are back in school. That's crazy early, I know, but this is our reality. Just as we got into the rhythm of the summer, it’s time to go back to school. It snuck up on us so quickly that I didn’t even have time to ease them into the transition. Needless to say, it was tough getting them out of bed this morning.
To save you from the same fate here is a list of 7 things you can do to ease back in the school routine and lower the anxiety of both kids and parents alike.
1. Ease into a New Sleep Schedule
Most kids stay up later and sleep in a little later in the summer. In order to reduce the shock to the system when they have to get up early to get to school try pushing bedtimes up before school starts (more for younger children, and suggest to teens to get to bed earlier).
2. Get Nourished
Help kids get the good nutrition they need to get through the school day with sustained energy. Begin with a healthy breakfast and try to have family dinner as often as possible during the week. When it comes to lunch, spend some time before school starts talking about what kinds of food they’ll eat at lunchtime (whether they bring it themselves or eat on campus) that will fuel their brain and bodies all day long.
3. Talk About Homework Before It Starts
Spend some time talking about homework and the expectations around getting it done. Make a plan for when, where and how homework will get finished. Consider creating a space, whether it’s a desk in the bedroom or a space at the kitchen table, where kids can do their homework with all the supplies they might need on hand. Agree on when homework gets done and try to stick to it daily as much as possible. Try to stick to a homework routine without any electronic devices unless they are required for the assignment.
4. Get to know Your School and Teacher
For some kids it can be really helpful to meet with teachers and staff and take a tour of their school or see their new classroom before the first day of school. Putting a face to a name or getting to know the campus ahead of time can go far in easing a child’s first-day anxiety, and yours too. And if your child will be getting to school on their own for the first time consider doing a trial run before the first day.
5. Stay Organized
Help your student create an organizational system to track assignments and keep track of handouts, homework and other important school papers. Check in with them about how it’s working about two weeks after school begins. Make tweaks and adjustments as needed. For new middle and high school Students, make sure they know how to find their assignments online and how to turn work in on line as well.
6. Create Good Study Habits
Talk with your child about study habits. This will be more relevant for older students but it is never too early to start practicing these skills. Help your child think about how they will stay on top of their assignments. For older students think through their strategies for studying for quizzes, tests and the completion of longer term assignments. Let them be part of the process of learning what works best for them. Consider yourself a guide rather than an expert. We all have different ways of learning, preparing and completing work.
7. Be Clear About Screen Time
If your household is anything like mine, the time my kids spend of the screen goes up over the summer. Now that school is about to begin, revisit your screen time guidelines and make sure everyone is clear about how much and what kind of “fun” screen time is allowed during the week and on the weekends during the school year. Agree on where devices should live if they are not needed for completing homework. And remember that powering down devices at least an hour before bed is an important part of ensuring that your child gets good quality sleep and is rested for school the next day.
The transition out of summer and back to school can be hard. You can ease the pain by spending a little time in preparation for the change of rhythm and routine. Hopefully a little pre planning and some time thinking through the back to school transition will make it all go more smoothly.
Ready or not, here we GO!
My kids are out of school for the summer and while they both have a few planned activities they have a lot of unstructured time. This is by design as I am a firm believer in kids having free time. They are thrilled about it, but I’m also nervous.
Why? Because I know when they aren’t out of the house, their default will be on screens. That means my days will toggle between working and managing their screen time. We have screen time limits, but it requires my enforcement and sometimes that falters, because I am not always paying attention and as teenagers they are still building their own self regulation skills. So what is a parent to do?
I recently listened to a great Podcast with some great solutions. In episode 82 of Ask Lisa: The Psychology of Parenting, Dr Lisa outlines 5 “must do” activities for kids for this summer.
Have a fantastic summer.
After over three decades of research on children and families, psychologist Dr. Laurence Steinberg noticed that the scientific evidence linked certain principles of parenting to healthy child development. The connections were so clear and consistent that these same principles could be applied to all families, universally. A family's income, race, single- or two-parent status did not affect the outcome. He talks about these in his book The 10 Principles of Good Parenting. The list includes:
I LOVE these and while I agree wholeheartedly with Dr Steinberg's list I'd like to add one more. I hope he doesn't mind!
11. Take time to reflect on your parenting.
No one can do all of these principles all of the time. We parents are merely human. If we add reflection to this list we have the best chance of aligning our parenting to these principles most often. Reflection opens the door to more choices in how we handle parenting challenges at all stages of our children's lives. But reflection takes time which, I know, can be a scarce commodity for most parents.
Parent coaching is a one way to ensure you make the time to reflect and do it in a nurturing and supportive way. It is NOT about focusing on what you are doing wrong or how you fall short. It IS about using a positive frame shift to focus on your strengths and what is currently working to build new skills, make sustainable change and see growth in your parenting.
Click HERE to schedule a free 30 minute consultation call to learn more!
When I give my parent workshop, “Unraveling Screen Time Together With Your Teen or Tween” I inevitably get the question, “What is the best App for managing screen time?”
Thankfully the answer is that there are many good products out there. These Apps are truly ingenious and very helpful. Sadly on their own they are not enough. Balanced with other direct strategies they can help you get a hold of screen time management in your home.
Here are my top 10 favorite screen time tips:
And remember that you are not alone. ALL parents are dealing with screens and kids. Last week in her parenting column for the NY times, Jessica Grose wrote, “there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to approach most components of the child-raising process.” And that is also true for managing screen time. Every child is different, every family is different, every home environment is different. You must find YOUR way through to a screen time management system that works in your family.
With all of this in mind here’s the list of the top Screen Time Parental Control Apps:
There’s great stuff here, but take this all with a grain of salt. There is no quick fix or silver bullet for managing screen time with your kids at any age. There is only taking the time, setting the intention and gathering the tools you need to overcome this BIG challenge all parents are facing.
**Read the full NY Times article HERE.
**For more information and comparisons read this ARTICLE in Very Well Family.
Sometimes I wish I had a pair of ruby slippers, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. If I did, I would click my heels three times and transport myself back to a time before parenting with screens. Technology, like Dorothy’s tornado, lifted us off of our foundation and transported us to a different dimension. Without realizing it, we woke up in Oz with the world in technicolor, life made quicker and easier with all these new seductive gadgets. But like in Oz, there is also danger.
As I navigate parenting with screens I feel like Dorothy and her friends in the dark forest chanting “Screen Time and iPhones and TikTok, Oh my!”, to stay calm in the face of the fear that my kids are addicted to their screens. Sadly, unlike the Wicked Witch of the West, we can’t just throw water on these foes, hoping that they’ll melt away into a green puddle. There is hope, though, that we too can follow the yellow brick road and find our way to a better place. It’ll take more than clicking our heels and saying, “there’s no place like home”, but with a little heart, a few brains and a bit of courage, there is a way to find balance parenting our kids alongside technology.
I’ve found that these tips are a great starting point for the journey:
Thank you www.internetmatters.org for these awesome tips! For more information and details please visit their website directly.
I truly hope that you enjoyed a healthy and joyful holiday season. As we wrap up the season of joy I keep wondering, how can we cultivate joy all year long, hold it as a value and teach it to our kids?
In our achievement-oriented culture it is easy to get trapped into only feeling joy when our kids
have accomplished something monumental like baby’s first steps, good grades or success on the sports field.
But joy doesn’t have to be sidelined just because a big moment isn't happening. We can actually cultivate joy on a daily basis through awareness and practice.
To get started here is a list of ways to cultivate everyday joy:
I can’t help but think that if we are all able to tap into more joy in our everyday lives, that we can lift the collective spirit of our communities that are challenged right now in so many ways.
Happy New Year! May you have as much ease, peace and joy as you can cultivate in 2022!
As we wind down 2021 and the New Year approaches, I am starting to think about New Year’s Resolutions. To be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with the whole resolution thing. On the one hand, I like to think about how I can improve, change and create new habits. On the other hand, resolutions can make me feel badly about where I have fallen short or wish I were different. All year I struggle with acceptance and the New Year can feel like a full court press of self rejection. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Breaking old habits and building new ones is hard. And quite frankly, starting out feeling deficient is no way to begin making a change. Instead, I need all the confidence and resolve that I can muster to even think about being successful. I wouldn’t send my kids out to try something new by highlighting all their shortcomings first. No, I would say, “You’ve got this. You are brave and strong and really great at climbing”. So why should it be any different for me?
It shouldn't. So that is why this year I am taking a different approach to New Year's resolutions, one that I use when I am coaching parents.
When I start working with a client, before we even begin to think about how to make a change, we take a deep dive into strengths and what’s working in their parenting. We do this because we want to work from a place of strength and positivity. From that place they are poised to build new skills and discover how to break old habits and catalyze sustainable change.
So, this year I created my “Best of 2021 Parenting Edition”. And here is what’s on it:
3 ways in which I saw my values reflected in my kids.
3 ways I surprised myself as a parent.
3 moments of joy I experienced with my kids.
3 parenting moments I am proud of.
3 things I learned about myself through parenting.
3 opportunities I created for my kids.
3 things I am grateful for.
And you can do this TOO!
As you prepare for the New Year, start by making your own “Best of 2021: Parenting Edition”. Acknowledge all you’ve done well this last year. Give yourself some credit. Reveal what has worked for you and where you shined in 2021. Celebrate your wins, both big and small. Write them down, revisit them and decide how you can harness your strengths into possibilities for the future.
Begin the change process by building confidence and faith in your own power. Flex your muscles in front of the mirror and see how strong you are. Then with confidence, clarity and vision draft your resolutions, go forth and watch yourself grow.
Happy New Year!
Connecting with your child is easy when everything is going well. But what happens when things are more difficult?
We have all been there. Your child is melting down. You feel stressed about work or trying to juggle caring for other children. The meltdown gets bigger, the emotions get heated and in the end there are more tears, stress and bad feelings. When it's over you feel terrible about the outcome, you’re exhausted and your confidence has just been chipped away at AGAIN.
When things get rough, fostering connection can be the difference between just limping through a difficult moment and instilling a sense of security in your child.
When your child is experiencing a big emotion they need to feel safe and seen in order to regulate. It’s normal and okay not to agree with WHY they are having such an extreme reaction to something that, to you, seems so insignificant. In spite of that mismatch you empathize with WHAT they are feeling, not why they are feeling it.
It is our job as parents to make a safe space for our kids to have ALL their BIG emotions. To show them that all kinds of feelings are ok and that they can handle them (and so can we).
It is never easy, but this skill CAN be learned. That is why I created this FREE E-Booklet: 10 Tips to Stay Connected With Your Child when they are having BIG emotions.
And it’s not just for parents of toddlers and young children either. It applies to TEENS as well. Teens are notorious for their BIG feelings and connecting with them is just as important then when they are little.
Here are the first two tips to get you started right away.
See these moments as opportunities to deepen your relationship, build regulation skills (yours and theirs) and help your child’s healthy brain development.
BOOM BABY! It’s WIN, WIN, WIN.
To get ALL of the tips and how to use them, please use this link to get the
E-Book directly into your InBox.
If you found this helpful, PLEASE send this along to anyone and everyone who would benefit from these tips…..and who are we kidding... THAT’S ALL OF US!!!!
I hope that you had a wonderful summer and that the transition back to school is going smoothly. Our family had a nice summer, with some in-state travel and much needed unplugged overnight camp for the kids. What we didn’t anticipate was that this summer would deliver life lessons that we weren’t expecting.
Without going into the details, we were confronted with the two-sided tragedies of being close to parents who lost children and young children who lost their parents - suddenly and unexpectedly. For me, these incidents were a wake-up call that we are all living on the razor's edge. I am not naive, as I know we are always a moment away from the inevitable. But when I was confronted with these sudden and unexpected deaths I was driven right up against that edge and reminded that it can happen at any moment.
But we don’t wake up each day living in fear that it will be our last day. And we can’t focus on the fact that our loved ones could be taken from us at any moment. That would be a terrible way to live. Thankfully our brains are wired to be able to put that thought aside most of the time and we can live our lives.
These tragedies were a chance to reflect on the preciousness of life and served as a reminder of how fragile life is. As we supported our friends and community members suffering with the loss of their loved ones, my husband and I took the opportunity to talk with our boys about death, grief and loss. We showed what it means to support friends during these difficult times, talked about living in the present and discussed the importance of not only telling people that you love them, but why.
For me it was a parental reminder to shift my perspective. As parents we can spend so much time worrying about the future. We focus on hitting milestones when the kids are little, we fret over grades when they are in high school. And as they leave the nest, we wonder if they will ever be able to cook for themselves, do their own laundry and pay their bills. These are all real worries, but they are just that, often not grounded in any reality, but fabricated by the pressures of parenthood and “good old fashioned” fear.
So, when I find myself in a worry spiral I try not to distract myself with my phone. I slow down, take a breath and bring myself back to the present moment. Almost always when I scan my immediate situation, I see that my kids are really OK. This frame shift is about savoring the moments as they happen rather than spending time in the future, because try as I might, I cannot control their future. Or mine, for that matter. The here and now is REALLY all we have.
I never thought that my kids would be this close to sudden and tragic death, but this summer, they were. And while I wish that I could have kept them from that harsh reality of the razor's edge for much longer, that was not in the cards for us. So we used it as an opportunity to learn and grow. As we move forward and face the reality of our mortality and that of our friends and family and we think about living each day with love and compassion. And I try - even when it’s hard - to make the most of this complex and beautiful life, moment by precious moment.
When my sons were little, they shared a room. I had painted it a green color that was called “Dill Pickle”. It was a cute color that matched the perky juvenile feeling of a room for a couple little monkey brothers. The boys moved in together when my youngest was 6 months and the older one turned 3. In that room they went from cribs to toddler beds and finally to a bunk bed. I spent many evenings listening to their cute shenanigans when they were supposed to be falling asleep. I awoke many mornings to their (not so) low chatter, playing together in their room while their dad and I slept in (to a whopping 7 am ha, ha, ha) on the weekends. When my eldest turned 12, they parted ways. Each in their own room, we succumbed to the necessity of teenhood and the natural pull of privacy. Instead, now I hear them yelling across the hallway as they play video games simultaneously together, but in their separate quarters. Now, their Dad and I wonder if they are still breathing as they slumber past 11 am on the weekends.
About a year ago we had our bedrooms painted and at the time I tried to get my youngest to move from Dill Pickle to a light gray, anticipating that he’d want something more mature as he turned 13. Still at the tender age of 12 and reluctant to make a change, he refused and we repainted it the familiar Dill Pickle. Lo and behold, just weeks after his 13th birthday he asked to change the color of his walls. I had called it, but too early...he was ready in his own timeline, not mine.
Happy to indulge him but not wanting to have a painter in my house during COVID, I decided to take on the job myself. We found the color he wanted and I set to work. Plugged into my favorite tunes, I painted over the Dill Pickle. And while I rolled over the green with the new gray I was awash with the memories that those walls carried of an earlier time in my parenting. And as I painted, I was not just saying goodbye to the warm, playful color, but that phase of my parenthood; the school-aged years of playdates, Legos and the pleasure of reading to my kids. With each stroke, I was ushering in the next, and final phase of parenting my sons at home. It was beautiful to relive the joy of those early years when they needed me for everything, and a little scary to think about navigating the teen years, a time marked by their increased separation from me. I was flooded in moments sour and sweet, of conflict and resolution, of cuddles and pep talks, centered around topics we all thought were so monumental at the time.
I didn’t think that painting the room was going to be so much more than just changing the color. It gave me pause to recognize that I have grown as a parent, and I had developed strengths while ushering them to this new threshold. And how I’ll use that grit, resilience and parenting muscle to get me through the teen years. Who knew that painting a room would be a parenting rite of passage, but it was. The insight was as unexpected as it was deep and meaningful. This experience helped me feel ready to be the parent of teenagers.
Jenny Michaelson is a PCI,
Writing Contributor at: