This blog post part of our series: A Thriving School Year. Read the whole series HERE.
It’s so easy to get caught up in all the drama and busyness of the school year and focus on the negative aspects rather than the abundance children experience in the school setting.
Some children — and parents! — will focus on all the negatives and so if you let them they will certainly make school seem like it’s the end of the world.
And other children may not say much of anything at all but will end up internalizing any stress they may be experiencing so it’s always good to have supportive systems at home to help them talk about their problems.
Studies show that now more than ever, children are facing stress, anxiety and depression. That’s not too surprising since more than 76,000 people — mostly adults — died from opioid overdoses last year.
We have a lot to learn about coping with adversity in this country — and all of my family wellness coaching benefits the mom AND her whole family.
We have to teach our children how to cope with life’s stressors so they can handle the hard things. We have to work hard to keep stress at bay. And we have to bounce back and be resilient in the face of adversity.
All of this can be mastered during the school years with the right approach at home. The hands off — let them handle it — may not actually be working.
Helping your child cope through the challenges — while not solving their problems for them — may be the most important job you have as a parent.
These bits and pieces of advice are the common themes we encounter each school year and certainly don’t encompass all of the issues that will arise for your family. But these will almost always come up sooner or later if you have children in school.
My Family’s Ultimate Guide to a Stress-Free School Year
Making and Keeping Friends at School
Friendships are SUPER important.
We tell our girls to be kind to everyone for everyone is truly in their own situation at home and at school.
As we prepare to move out of the tween years and into the teen years — and I can’t even believe I’m writing those words — I can honestly look back and say the tween years with TWO girls haven’t been that bad.
There were friendship struggles.
But I always give my girls the same words of advice — and will continue to do so through middle school — and that is this: Stay out of the fray and sleep on it.
I haven’t met one friendship struggle yet that isn’t resolved after at least one good night’s sleep — or, even better, a weekend. Almost always those fall outs last about 23 hours.
Rather than instigate and antagonize with blame or shame, we encourage our girls to breathe through it, find the lesson and let it go for the night. We work on distracting them with good old self-care skills that make them feel good about themselves and remind them they are worthy.
And then we send them out back to school to face the conflict in the morning. And FACING it is essential. We can’t skip out on school because of a disagreement with a friend — or even a bully — just like we can’t do that in our workplace.
Coaching our children to face their fears and their problems head on is such a beautiful skill in life. I wish I had learned it as a child. Instead, I like to hide from conflict. 🙂 I’m trying to teach my children another way and you should, too.
All this to say that it’s a fine balance of helping your child be a good friend without being a pushover. It’s a fine line to respect everyone and not be disrespected.
But roll with the punches. Childhood is tough. I think it’s meant to be so we’re prepared for the ridiculousness of adult friendships.
The Rise and Fall of Grades
It can be heartbreaking to see a child who works hard struggle with getting good grades. This has happened in our family and I don’t think my heart hurt any worse before or since.
Rather than stay focused on that heartbreak, though, we just kept working hard to pull the grades up. Together. It became a family commitment.
And the goal was not ever to be perfect. But to be better. Better than we were yesterday. Better than last month.
In our house, we promote one message: Work hard and do your best. During homework and at school.
YOUR best is your best. Don’t compete with others but do your best, always. You get what you put in. As I wrote in my last post, don’t compare your child with another but definitely push him to do his best every single day.
Coping with Teacher Conflicts
Ah, my favorite. Every year, my daughter has ONE teacher that drives her crazy and that she struggles with and this is hard to navigate and can make or break the school year.
My approach has been to respect the teacher. Period. Regardless of what’s happening.
Work with the teacher as best as you can but don’t lose sleep over a conflict. You are still the parent and you will always know your child best. But you can’t win against a teacher without things getting ugly … so learn to let go of some of the issues and pick your battles.
And, if you can’t — as we all know that one teacher who doesn’t have great communication skills — work with your child on some of our Abundant Mama skills … do the work, find the good and let it go. The year will be over soon enough.
Handling Behavior Issues
Likely related to the above, but behavior issues can be so disheartening for a parent.
You are enough. You are not your child’s actions. Your child is their own person and responsible — and likely just really immature yet and needs more time to get it together. They will get there.
Work hard to institute positive behavior systems that empower your child to do well, but don’t let their actions make you feel less than.
Certainly, keep coaching your child as best as you can.
Do what you can about what you can. The rest is up to the teacher. It’s their job to get a child to pay attention, engage in their learning and do the work. There’s only so much you can do from a distance.
And by all means, celebrate the wins when your child shares them.
Facing the Morning
Oh mornings on school days. You just never know how they will flow. All you can do is prepare and NEVER let your guard down!
The key to a really smooth morning is all about two things: the state of the WHOLE family — mom especially — and the night before.
If you are up and ready to go, you won’t be trying to multitask. You can be present and available for any mishaps — rather than frustrated and impatient.
So, do as much as you can the night before — including picking out what everyone will wear and talk about the day so everyone knows what’s happening. Are library books due? Do papers need signed? Homework completed? Reports done?
Your weekly school check-in will help with this as well.
Making and Packing Lunches
I make my daughters’ lunches. I dread it and hate it and yet love it. It’s a love-hate thing for me. They don’t have any interest in making their own and they have few expectations BUT they are also picky.
The one thing that helps me face the lunch packing resistance is a daily or weekly lunch making ritual. No matter when lunches are going to be made — Sundays, evenings, mornings — alone or together — it helps to have a ritual in place to make it more fun.
Have the kids help bag up snacks. Wash fruit. And put on some music and just really ENJOY this task.
Then celebrate when the school year is over and you can stop this task.
Sports and after-school activities
We’re not trying to raise the next generation of overachievers so at our house you get one activity per season. You can stick with that one or pick a new one but you only get ONE. Music does not count as the ONE thing.
Our children may want to do it all, but teaching them to not fear missing out on things is another great skill to have in life.
Again, I wish I had learned that sooner than in my 40s. 🙂
Should You Volunteer and How Much?
Less is more is our family motto.
In my early years, I did volunteer a lot. Those years were essential for being connected to our children as they grow up and need to feel safe. And that’s also when teachers need the most support.
I’m a big fan of volunteering when it feels meaningful and when it fits my values.
But I’m also a big fan of knowing my limits and saying no. You have to know what works best for you, your energy and your needs.
I’m a highly creative person and too much interaction with large groups of people will affect my creative energy. So I can only volunteer so much before my work is affected.
Putting your child first is a natural thing to do.
But you can’t forget that you have needs and desires, too. And you have to protect your time and energy so your own soul can shine each day.
Don’t be afraid to say no.
But don’t be afraid to say yes, too. I have met great friends while volunteering and wouldn’t change that for the world.
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